12 questions to ask in a skip level meeting

What is a skip-level meeting?

Skip-level meetings are one-on-one meetings where you meet your manager’s manager.

Why are skip-level meetings important?

Skip-level meetings are essential to:
1. Understand the role and success criteria
2. Strengthen the relationship
3. Align on priorities
4. Get and share feedback
5. Share big ideas

12 questions to ask your skip-level manager (SLM)

Understand the role and success criteria

Question 1: What are the essential qualities of a great product manager? How am I doing on those?

Why should you ask: Typically, the SLM’s feedback strongly affects your promotion/performance reviews. Knowing how they define your role’s success and gauge your performance is essential. You can then use the information to work on your opportunity areas and increase the chances of a great performance review.

Question 2: We recently shipped ABC. How do you think that went, and is there anything I could have done better?

Why: Asking for feedback on a recent project is very effective. It is fresh in everyone’s minds, which allows them to share accurate and actionable feedback.

Question 3: Can I take on other projects or responsibilities to expand my skill set and advance my career?

Why: If you’re finding it tough to sharpen (or display) your skills, you might consider focusing on different and/or more areas. Ask your SLM to identify the right areas. They have cross-team visibility and understand your strengths; hence are best suited to find relevant opportunities for you. Asking this question also shows your enthusiasm to contribute, learn, and grow.

Strengthen the relationship

Question 4: What do you like to do during your time off? What kind of music do you like? (or other questions to know the person better)

Why: The idea here is to ask questions that help you know them better. The more you know them, the easier it is to align with them, get guidance, and be successful while you’re on their team.

Question 5: What keeps you motivated every day?

Why: Great leaders think and act differently. Understand what makes them do their job well. Knowing their motivation will help you understand how they think; this knowledge will strengthen the partnership and collaboration with your SLM.

Question 6: What blogs or books do you read to become better? OR Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship? OR How do you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

Why: Great leaders are constantly learning to become better. Consuming the same resources they do will help you get more knowledge than your peers, have the relevant information to do the right things, and always have interesting things to talk about with your SLM.

Align on priorities

Question 7: What are your current goals? OR What are the highest impact initiatives in the next six months?

Why: Know which initiatives are the highest impact according to them. Understand why they are impactful. And then ensure that you’re working on projects that directly contribute to the critical initiatives. If you’re not working on such projects, then get your SLM’s help to create a plan to get closer to critical projects.

Question 8: What are your thoughts on our team’s current strategy? OR Is there something that you wish we did better as a team?

Why: Use this question to gauge two things: is your team working on the right things, and is your team using the right strategy. Getting your SLM’s input and feedback on both is critical – it will help you identify opportunities to expedite the team’s progress and increase the chances of success.

Question 9: I am working on A, B, and C right now, and I want to share a quick update on how we’re doing. I would love to get your thoughts on what I can do better to ensure we reach the desired goal.

Why: This is NOT a progress update. Instead, this is your chance to highlight your achievements and wins. This could also be an opportunity to focus on areas where you need direction and guidance. Following your SLM’s recommendations should increase the chances of your success exponentially.

Get and share feedback

Question 10: Who should I get feedback from, and what is the best way to receive meaningful feedback?

Why: It is essential to know who’s feedback the SLM considers necessary and the best way to get it. This information will help you identify improvement areas most crucial to your success and professional growth.

Question 11: What is the best way I can give feedback to person X in the ABC Team

Why: If you want to share feedback about others, ask your SLM about the best way to do it. The goal is to share feedback candidly but effectively – that is where the SLM can guide you.

Share big ideas

Question 12: I have an idea that is not part of the yearly plan but will contribute to the north star. How can I get buy-in and make it happen?

Why: If you have ideas that need buy-in or visibility from senior leaders, it is best to share them with your SLM first. Get their feedback and buy in early. Then get their help to rally for you: ask them to soft pitch on your behalf or set up meetings with leaders where you can pitch the idea. Your SLM initiating these conversations will have more weight than you reaching out to other leaders.

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