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Skip-Level meeting with VP

Old 08-07-2018, 11:28 AM
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Default Skip-Level meeting with VP

Our VP wants to have a "skip-level" meeting with all of the managers. The directors have been intentionally omitted. There will be about 15 of us; and I seem to normally find myself in the "speaks his mind" camp. There are morale issues; and I truly believe our VP wants the no-$hit real answers as to why. All he gets from his directors is the fluffy, ass-kissing, yes sir version. The guy is retired USAF officer of 30+ years, so I feel like he should appreciate a little straight-talk...... maybe not though. I hear that officer stuff gets really political the higher you go. I'm just not sure that it's strategically wise to tell him where it's broken; and I'm afraid if I don't then nobody will. What says THT?
Old 08-07-2018, 11:38 AM
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Since he is reaching out to you then reach out to him and ask for a one on one.
Old 08-07-2018, 11:43 AM
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You can never really know exactly WHAT they want. Sometimes these things are simply for show, and sometimes it's because they really want to get to real answers. First thing though, in general, never bitch about a problem without also having some kind of logical solution to offer as well. So, if you want to talk about moral, make sure you have some practical solutions or ideas on what to do to improve it.
I would start by feeling him out a bit, don't just "speak your mind" all at once, but try to get a read on what his perception is. Open the conversation with things like "I feel like yadda yeadda...", or phrase it like "Several people in the group, including myself, have noticed....".
Ex-military guys often respect the chain of command, so if you are going to throw your director under the bus in any way, kind of force him to drag it out of you. See if you can get him to divulge what he has heard from your director, and then try to go just 1 or 2 steps beyond that if you have negative feedback, if that makes sense.
Old 08-07-2018, 11:44 AM
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Any skip level meeting SHOULD be one on one.

OP, you know that if you bring something up, you better have a solution in mind....or it's just bitchin"

dev, you beat me to it. And I second the drag it out of the OP comment.
Old 08-07-2018, 11:45 AM
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I'm just white trash.

Not familiar with suits and CEO's, but I have found that no matter what anyone says, very very few folks on this planet want to be told the truth.

Some tell me it's not the fact that I deliever the truth, but it is in my form of delivery of said truths that shuts down the conversation.

I still think folks just don't want to usually hear the cold hard truth.
Old 08-07-2018, 11:47 AM
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In one of many Charm School courses I took, the question was posed to the instructor at the end of the week “we have heard all of the good leadership traits this week; so why do we see individuals moved into positions of importance that do not possess these traits”? Without missing a beat, the instructor said “you can’t see an asshole looking down”. Props to the VP for trying to get some real input on the view from below. My suggestion would be to reply with the truth; not sugar-coated, but honest.. However, I was also in the “speak my mind”, and although it served me well, my career did take a hard turn into the ditch once, but I came out of it for the better.
Your take on the military process is pretty interesting; up to Colonel, I find them to be generally open and direct. If they had their eyes on a star, many Colonels became very political, and were far more interested in checking a box for “consensus” rather than discovering issues. Those Colonels that were not going any further were the best - they wanted the truth, they wanted solutions, and they made decisions...
Old 08-07-2018, 11:51 AM
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In a group setting, don’t be the first to speak up regarding what is wrong. Usually someone or multiple people will prime the pump, and you can add constructive dialogue later in the conversation without being viewed as the one bitching.


keep any criticism general in nature in the group setting, and don’t specifically call out your direct manager except in a one on one setting.
Old 08-07-2018, 11:52 AM
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Use the BLUF strategy, then support it with facts. Conclude with solutions. All the commanders I had to deal with during my career liked that type format.
Old 08-07-2018, 11:52 AM
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hang back initially, see the direction the meeting goes before you start keeping shit real.

who knows, maybe it's not the meeting you think it's going to be....
Old 08-07-2018, 11:53 AM
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After 30 years working in technology for organizations large and small, I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty - executive management does not want to hear the unvarnished truth. They may SAY they do, but my experience is that it's a bad idea to raise issues in an open forum. let me ask you, how long do you think it will take directors to know exactly what was said and by whom? I would say about 10 minutes after the meeting is over. There are ways to get your message across without making yourself a target. Illustrate the issues by using real-world examples of what happened in your organization because of this issue. ALSO there are two things I can't emphasize enough: the exec your are speaking to may have had a direct role in creating the situation(s), so be objective and do your research, and always have an idea about how the issue(s) can be rectified. Your idea might be crap - the point is you want to be considered as someone who contributes to the solution vs. a pain in the azz who just complains.
Old 08-07-2018, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by bayrunner16 View Post
I'm just white trash.

Not familiar with suits and CEO's, but I have found that no matter what anyone says, very very few folks on this planet want to be told the truth.

Some tell me it's not the fact that I deliever the truth, but it is in my form of delivery of said truths that shuts down the conversation.

I still think folks just don't want to usually hear the cold hard truth.
Now that's THE HULL TRUTH. Couldn't agree more.
Old 08-07-2018, 12:00 PM
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Deny everything, make counter-accusations.....
Old 08-07-2018, 12:01 PM
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Been to a bunch of these skip level meetings. Most turn into a group bitch session, but that's not say that the comments are valid. Usually, these meetings aren't held until the problem has grown so large that it is blatantly obvious. The other way I have seen these meetings work, is that the VP wants to have a more direct engaged communication downward of his ideas, and the VP does 90% of the talking. However the downward flow of info meetings are typically reoccurring, ie VP meets with all first line managers once a quarter.

My advice is gauge the room and, try to stand out for the right reasons, ie when you talk make sure you come off as sounding more insightful and intelligent than your peers. Its garunteed that you will have a few of these personalities in the room:

Company Kiss @$$ who says there are no problems and everything is great, thank you Mr. VP I love working here

Silent Majority - Anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the people in the room won't say a word.

Listen to how smart I am- Someone will ramble on trying to impress the VP and show how smart they are when everyone realizes that they are a moron, including the VP

Mr. Negative- Somebody will be having a bad day and will bitch about every last thing, and may or may not regret it afterwords

Mr. about to retire- This is a good one, if you are lucky you'll have this guy in the room. He's been around the block a long time, and will tell it like it is in a not so delicate fashion. This guy doesn't car about his career or who he pisses off, because he is going to be permanently on the golf course sometime within the next 6-18 months

Adults- there will be 3 or 4 people who add some insightful comments during the meeting

Stand out- One person, most likely not the VP, will stand out and speak and act in a way that demonstrates that they know something, and will act as a leader

Last edited by beber; 08-07-2018 at 01:13 PM.
Old 08-07-2018, 12:01 PM
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It's a trap.
If you are interested in moving up in the organization be careful and understand the internal politics of where you work.
Don't say anything that you have not already told your immediate Supervisor.
Note that i didn't say would tell your Sup. I said what you have already told your Sup.
I worked for a retired 2 Star and he did that shit all the time. He did it to show his Directors he could.
Nothing ever happened other than more tension between the Directors and the next level down.

Also, i actually asked the 2 star about how to improve moral in the Organization and he told me to shoot at them.
In his experience (Vietnam) he said nothing brought a team together better than getting shot at. (True Story)
Old 08-07-2018, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Kenny Powers View Post
Our VP wants to have a "skip-level" meeting with all of the managers. The directors have been intentionally omitted. There will be about 15 of us; and I seem to normally find myself in the "speaks his mind" camp. There are morale issues; and I truly believe our VP wants the no-$hit real answers as to why. All he gets from his directors is the fluffy, ass-kissing, yes sir version. The guy is retired USAF officer of 30+ years, so I feel like he should appreciate a little straight-talk...... maybe not though. I hear that officer stuff gets really political the higher you go. I'm just not sure that it's strategically wise to tell him where it's broken; and I'm afraid if I don't then nobody will. What says THT?
VP is looking for ring leaders.
Old 08-07-2018, 12:09 PM
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This will not end well.
Old 08-07-2018, 12:09 PM
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I've been on both sides, and I understand why some bosses say they want to know the truth, yet some individual contributors feel that they don't.
From a boss's point of view:
I don't want to listen to you bitch and moan
I don't want to hear you rant about the format of the header page of the TPS report.
I don't want to listen to you bash your supervisor.
I don't want to hear about how everyone else is dumb but you have everything figured out (Dunning Kruger syndrome)
I don't want you to start accusing me of things and put me on the defensive.

I do want to hear about major pain points.
I do want to hear about possible process changes that lead to better productivity
I do want to hear about ways to do things more efficiently.

So you can "give the boss a piece of your mind" which will accomplish nothing, or you can think think out your responses, lay out a logical argument, and increase the chance of some good happening.


"The new changes to the TPS report are dumb!"
vs
"I feel that we are constantly changing report formats. These format changes create more work without any clear benefit. Additionally, the changes make it difficult to compare year over year numbers, and we spend too much time making the changes and not enough time analyzing the data. Maybe we could have a discussion to get a better idea of what people are trying to accomplish with these changes?"
Old 08-07-2018, 12:09 PM
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Answer every question with a question. Let him tell you what he wants to hear.
Old 08-07-2018, 12:18 PM
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Be sure to take video and share with us! I'd let-er rip, if I were you.
Old 08-07-2018, 12:20 PM
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Last one I went to was about an hour before EVERY director level salary was eliminated. It was basically a way to clear the area before the HR hammer.

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