Mark, you asked why introduce the concept of Skip Levels in the weekly staff meeting? I would think it is because you want your Directs to hear it at the same time. If they hear it individually they may think something is dont' trust them or they are in under your microscope or in trouble for some reason.

Mark's picture


Yes, you're right! Well done. The big issue for me is making sure they all get the same message, and to see how they all respond.

Send us your address, and let us know what book you'd like from our list. You can send a private message to Mike or I if you like.

Thanks for being so prompt!


Anonymous's picture

I agree with the previous post about announcing skip-levels in a team meeting, but have a further suggestion. The skip-level meeting is about building relationships with your skips. You will be much more effective in this relationship-building if your directs reenforce the importance of these meetings and accept them as a critical part of the communications strategy. Announcing the skip-level meetings in weekly staff meeting with your team reenforces that you are committed to the relationship with your directs.

Just my two cents.

Adam Krob

MattJBeckwith's picture

Again, great show topic. I love the skip level and was pretty proud of myself that I have been doing it "right" for some time.

A couple of comments:

As long as I have been doing them I have always asked for everyone to give me a number, from 1 - 10, to represent morale in the department. I use this number to get a pulse chack and to trend over time.

Also, I try to get an equal number of people per manager to attend, to even out any bias.

Now, a couple of questions to Mike, Mark and anyone else:

The podcasts mentions skipping one level. I manage an operation with 180 people, the bulk of them being direct reports of my skips. I require that my 3 department managers do 1 skip level per quarter but I also do them with the same group as well as the unit managers that are truly my skips. Is that overkill?

It also sounds like I should meet with everyone in my organization (in a skip level). Is that the case? I typically don't get to skip level all of them but will always pick new names each time I schedule a meeting. Any concerns with that?

Thanks again.

Mark's picture


Good questions. Glad you're thinking.

No, you shouldn't do a skip level with anyone other than your directs' directs. It sounds like that leaves out the lowest level of your org, but that is FINE. Ask your directs to do those skips, and see what they learn that may be different than what you do in your skips.

If you want to meet with more in your org, do an all hands meeting. EVERYONE comes to that one, and it's just a basic waterfall update and feedback session. Something like might be covered in a future cast....


sdwike's picture


I had a manager (my direct manager, who was a VP/CIO), who had a practice she called "a walk with Joann" (name changed here), wherein she scheduled a 30-minute session with each of the staff that reported to my direct reports. In effect, she was doing a level beyond skip-level, and doing them as individual bull-sessions. The format was entirely free-form, with the only common thing being that it was outside the building, on a walk around the parking lot/property of our facility. People could clam up and just go for a walk if they wished, but in reality, this never happened. What they discused was kept confidential, but anything she thought we could use as an area of improvement to create a better experience of work was passed down for me and my direct report managers to address.

I had no problem with this practice, and the staff all seemed to find it to their liking, even the ones we thought would do the silent act opened up about things with her.

Does this kind of multi-level skip violate your recommendations above, about not going deeper than a skip level, or does this represent an entirely different situation?

Mark's picture


Thanks for your comments and question. I think a lot of different people call a lot of different things a "skip level". This "walk" might be considered that.

I never argue with something that works. The second rule in the Army is, "if it's stupid but it works, it's not stupid." That said, I certainly wouldn't do what the VP did. Unless you are an exceptional inter-personally skilled person, that much of a gap in role/level with a one on one meeting I think would make for not great data coming out of this meeting. I wouldn't do it.

Mike will tell you that he did skip levels with different levels of his folks, reaching deeper, but because of his org's size, that meant he didn't see everyone that way but perhaps once a year.

The one thing NEVER to do is MIX levels in a skip level meeting, whose purpose is communication. Having two or more levels of folks in such a meeting (not counting you! :-) ) SIGNIFICANTLY reduces the candor that's possible.

So, I think because it was a one to one meeting, it was NOT a skip level. But if she and the folks who were there liked it, I wouldn't argue with it... even if I would also not recommend it.


MattJBeckwith's picture

Mark & Mike, so what is the "peanut butter rule" you referred to in the second Skip Level podcast? Mike, I think you mentioned that you preferred the "elephant rule" over this one.

Mark's picture


LOL. The peanut butter rule derives from a brainstorming facilitation principle which says that if you're scribing, you would write ANYTHING on the board/chart..."including 'peanut butter' if you were to blurt that out." The point of using "visual record keeping" is that it establishes trust that there is nothing happening to interdict or hamper the ideation you're trying to foment. The instant you as scribe/facilitator start censoring, you become more important than the entire group combined, and they don't like that and they withdraw and become less creative.

You say 'peanut butter', I'll write it down. Participants love the rule, and it works to create better results.

Mike thinks it's silly... but I've got data. :wink:


MattJBeckwith's picture

Ok, I love it! Peanut butter sounds better the "kitchen sink". I have to remember that myself. Mark, you have data? Every once in a while you sound like a recruiter (like the handshake 'cast) but then you start talking about data and then don't sound much like a recruiter :-)

In the past, when I ask my directs for feedback I had been told that sometimes I ask for opinions and then refute them, a flaw that I have worked hard to correct. Now I have a catchy name to attach to it. Thanks for clarifying that. The great thing about this medium is that I can easily rewind!

Mark's picture


I'm a recruiter with data. Unbeatable. I'm an engineer by schooling, and both my college age kids are studying engineering.

And, if you mean to say that the peanut butter rule somehow allows you to continue refuting feedback, I think we're still not connecting...? I can't see any way in which the pb rule would have anything to do with the feedback situation you mentioned.

If you give feedback, when you ask for it for yourself, the ONLY correct answer is to say thank you. Say NOTHING unless it's to COMPLETELY and UNABASHEDLY agree with the comment. Do NOT say you'll think about it - that's a negative. I just say, "thanks! I love feedback."

Don't embellish. A closed mouth gathers no foot.


MattJBeckwith's picture

No, no, not at all... the PB rule reminds me of a problem I had early in my career when I would ask for feedback and then qualify it. It drove my directs NUTS! I learned (from Mark Victor Hansen, not personally, but from a training video he made) years ago how powerful it is to just SHUT UP. Needless to say, now when I ask my directs for feedback, as an example, on how to improve quality, I ask them for their thoughts and then I SHUT UP and just take notes.

I still tell myself to "shut up" and now I will probably tell myself, "write down anything... even peanut butter!"

MattJBeckwith's picture

... and one other comment about your post...

As my children have grown up they've asked things like, "Dad, what do I need to do to become a [fill in the blank] when I grow up?" My oldest daughter recently realized that for every profession she has aspired to be I have included one thing in my answers: MATH. I do not have an engineering back ground but I do know that having a good understanding of math is crucial to success in most fields!

Not to oversimplify this but I read once that management is a lot of "allocating resources and eliminating obstacles" which might prove difficult if one struggles with mathematics.

Engineering and recruiting? That's why you are so good! That along with an Army, MCI, restauranteur partner is what makes your discussions so valuable.

Anuja_shelat's picture

Hi I wanted to understand what kind of analysis is done post a skip level session to quantify feedback given by the skips for their supervisors or about their views on the organisation.