We Need to Spend “Alone Time” With Our Skip Levels

As leaders, we need to spend time on a regular and consistent basis with our skip levels.


What is a Skip Level?

As we move up in our organizations, we become ‘managers of managers’ with both direct reports and skip levels. As an example, a Vice President may have 5 direct reports reporting to him or her and 25 employees reporting to the 5 different direct reports. These 25 employees are the skip levels of the Vice President.

Why Spend Time With Our Skip Levels?

  1. Improve and reinforce our message from the top ensuring that it is being fully communicated and penetrating the organization.
    1. Are the skip levels receiving this message and living and breathing it?
  2. Working with our direct reports, we can support the direct reports’ managing of performance issues.
    1. The skip level can hear the same message about performance gaps from both their manager and their manager’s manager reinforcing the need to address an issue.
    2. The skip level can also be coached by their manager of managers reinforcing the coaching from the skip level’s manager.
  3. The skip level will provide the “true truth” from the field about what is really happening rather than having everything filtered through a direct report.
    1. This creates an unvarnished picture of reality
    2. This helps the manager of manager more fully evaluate direct reports
    3. This give the team a voice and a direct line to the boss


How Do We Work With Our Skip Levels?

  1. As leaders, we need to get out and spend time at customer’s sites, in stores, and in operations with our skip levels (and not always the same ones). This can be done with the direct report present. Better yet, we should do it without our direct reports present in order to get a more honest message and open discussion.
  2. We need to ask our skip levels about what is going well and what issues and concerns they have. Then, we must listen.
  3. We need to repeat repeat repeat the message about our core values and key priorities, all the while ensuring that we stay on point with the key priorities the direct report has with the skip level.
    1. “There were times I talked about the company’s direction so much that I was completely sick of hearing it myself” Jack Welch


What Do We Need to Avoid?

  1. We cannot use these visits as a way to punish or give the lazy @#^%$ a kick in the butt.
    1. Discipline and the breaking of bad news is the responsibility of our direct reports, the skip level’s manager.
  2. We cannot solve our skip levels’ problems for them.
    1. This is for the skip level to do with their manager.
  3. We cannot undercut our direct reports.
    1. Before any visit, we must get the lay of the land and discuss the key issues and objectives of the direct report so that our message with our skip levels is consistent with what the direct report is trying to do.

In short, as leaders, this week we need to carve out some time to get out into the field and began interacting with our skip levels.


About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
This entry was posted in Leadership, Perform / Execution, Team / People and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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