Everything You Need to Know About Skip Level 1 on 1s

A manager's guidelines to nail skip level meetings with your team

Everything You Need to Know About Skip Level 1 on 1s

A skip level 1 on 1 is a meeting where the senior manager, VP, or CEO meets with the direct reports of the managers in their team. In simple words, you skip a level of management to connect directly with team members. It's an opportunity for you to acknowledge the efforts and consistency of your team. You can also utilize a skip level 1-on-1 to learn about the team’s internal dynamics so each teammate is pushed to their peak performance.

Importance of skip-level meetings

  • Skip-level meetings make it possible for you to listen and gather valuable feedback that can help in building a healthier and more productive work environment.
  • Team members get to gain a deeper understanding of the company's goals, vision, and unique strategies.
  • Skip-level meetings are great for remote teams to establish trust and confidence in higher management.
  • They make sure the team stays engaged and dedicated to their roles.
  • As a leader, you can demonstrate how much you value every team member in the organization.
  • You also have the chance to learn if parts of the organization have any confusion or dysfunction, and how these can be addressed.

How should you have skip level 1 on 1 meetings?

Skip-level meetings are meant to improve communication and facilitate the flow of information from the top echelon to every teammate. Here's how skip level 1-on-1s are typically done in organizations.

1. Inform the managers

Before starting a skip-level meeting, send a message across to the managers so they are aware that you're planning to meet those who directly report to them. If any suggestions arise, take notes and make adjustments to the meeting agenda where necessary.

Managers should be encouraged to share new and vital information about all the team members. This way, the senior manager or CEO is aware of anything that might come up during the meeting. Make sure to state your true intentions and what you hope to achieve with a skip level 1-on-1 meeting.

2. Inform the team members

Before the actual meeting occurs, members of the team should be informed that the company's executive would like to speak with them.

If you haven't had a skip level meeting with them before, they may not know what to expect from it. It's imperative to set their expectations so people aren’t unsure what to talk about.

3. Schedule the meeting

Whether you have a small or large team, it's possible to schedule skip-level meetings to meet everyone on the same day. Although it may seem challenging, you can break it into small chunks that are easier to achieve.

For example, you can devote 3 or 4 hours per week to such meetings. The number of team members you want to connect with and how much free time you have per week should help you estimate the number of weeks it will take to meet with every team member on a skip level 1-on-1.

How to prepare for a skip level 1 on 1 meeting

Senior managers, VPs or CEOs can't afford to meet team members without knowing the essential questions to ask or topics to talk about. Here's how to prepare before each skip level 1 on 1 meeting.

1. Be up-to-date

Skip-level meetings are important because they help to bridge the gap between leaders and their team members. You should endeavor to go through any employee progress report or similar document prior to the meeting. This will help you discover the job responsibility and analyze the performance of each team member.

2. Write an agenda for the skip level 1 on 1 meeting

Prepare a skip-level agenda and share it with managers and team members using apps like Loopin. A skip-level 1-on-1 meeting often starts with forming a personal connection, then leads to concerns or issues in the company, before ending with actionable takeaways and next steps.

You can use the following template to put together the agenda for your skip-level meeting:

  1. Make everyone comfortable by asking non-work-related questions like “How was the weekend?”, “What was the last movie you watched?”, etc. to break the ice.
  2. Get updated on current work so you can learn about the ongoing projects and challenges. Once you understand the team member’s role in your company’s overarching vision, you can better evaluate how to help them.
  3. Get feedback on the working conditions, dynamics of teamwork, overall team morale, etc. Ensure there will be no backlash so the team members can speak freely and give pointers on what needs to be improved for a better work environment.
  4. Learn about the personal goals of each teammate so you can understand how the company can help them move ahead in their career. This will increase their motivation to work and make the meeting fruitful.
  5. Host an open forum where the teammates get to ask you any questions about the company’s vision, strategy, and operations.
  6. Reiterate and plan ahead. Once the major pointers are covered, it’s good practice for both parties to reiterate what they learned during the meeting and what steps they need to take next to bring the plans to fruition.

You can divide each of these sections into time chunks, and depending on the total duration of the meeting, adjust each chunk based on their relative importance.

3. Schedule smartly

Schedule the skip level 1-on-1 meetings in such a way that they are manageable for all team members and don’t clutter your workday. Make sure you adjust the cadence such that you don’t miss anyone.

What to do during a skip level 1 on 1 meeting?

1. Build rapport

Start the meeting by building rapport so your teammates are comfortable talking with you. You can ask questions about their hobbies, favorite food, sports, or pastime, so they can get into the right mindset for a productive conversation.

2. Follow agenda

Follow the agenda so you can:

  • Learn about the working conditions, current projects, and challenges faced, if any
  • Get honest feedback that helps you build a more effective work environment,
  • Ask specific questions to derive actionable takeaways that help align all team members with the company’s overarching vision.

3. Motivate the team members

Motivation, especially coming from senior managers, can create a huge impact and boost workplace morale and productivity. If you see someone is putting in their best effort, tell them how valued they are. Kindness costs nothing, and a simple compliment from you might end up as someone’s source of motivation for the entire month.

4. Take notes

Once all the points in your skip level 1-on-1 meeting agenda are covered, take notes on what needs to be done next. You can use the Loopin Chrome extension to take notes on the calendar without switching tabs. Have the teammate reiterate their takeaways as well, so you both can be on the same page.

5. Schedule follow-ups

When you notify the team member about a follow-up, they will have a timeframe in mind so they know how and when to put the takeaways from the skip level 1-on-1 meeting into action.

What NOT to do during a skip level 1 on 1 meeting

Skip level 1-on-1s can be successful when done properly. But they should feel free to share insights or feedback about the company. Here are a few things to not do during your skip-level meetings:

1. Don't problem-solve

When your team members are telling you what they’re concerned about, the best you can do is note them down. Leaders shouldn't jump in to solve problems during skip level 1-on-1 meetings. Rather, they should speak to their managers and discuss how to improve the work environment.

2. Don't refute

During a skip level 1-on-1 meeting, you need to establish that you're open to feedback. Resist the urge to prove that the team member’s insight is wrong. Don't try to explain or give a defensive response. At all times, ensure that both parties engage in civil discourse. Take notes and make sure the team member knows their pain points are heard and will be addressed to the best of your abilities.

Conclusion

Skip level 1-on-1 meetings are the perfect opportunity for senior managers, VPs, and CEOs to get insights from team members who don’t report directly to them. They help the senior-level management understand what needs to be improved in the organization.  

It's a good practice to schedule recurring skip-level meetings with your team members. You can choose to speak with your team monthly or quarterly depending on your availability. It’s natural to not quite remember where you left off in the last meeting. To save yourself from the hassle of scrolling through page after page of your note-taking apps, you can make use of the meeting notes feature of the Loopin Chrome extension to access the previous meeting notes and move ahead from there. Remember to follow the tips above to have an effective skip-level meeting.

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