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One-on-one: Skip level

Learn how to find blind spots and enhance your organizational culture using Uber’s method
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Attendees

A skip one-on-one meeting is a meeting with managers or senior leaders in the company with those who are in junior positions. It is important not to have the meeting with a direct report in order to get honest and accurate feedback. To be truly effective you must create an environment in which the employee feels comfortable. Ideally, the manager should have a relationship with the individual being interviewed. Remember these sessions are about listening and learning from different perspectives in the organizations. 

Preparation

Managers should come armed with questions about the business based on data they’ve reviewed in advance — both qualitative and quantitative. 

Here are some questions you might want to ask in your one-on-ones:  

  • What is the morale in the office from their point of view?
  • How they are feeling about his or her team?
  • What their manager is doing well and not well?
  • What obstacles are they facing in their job? (If you are their skip-level manager, take steps to unblock these obstacles — it will mean a lot to the person that you took action.)
  • Do you understand the company’s goals and how your team’s goals fit into that picture?
  • Do you feel like you can do things you believe are right for the business?
  • Do you think leadership acts consistently with your values?
  • What would make work better for you?
  • When was the last time you took a vacation?
  • What is your sacred space? Do you feel like you have time for it?

Open Forum

  • Ask the interviewee if there is anything that was not covered above that they would like to add?

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One-on-one: Skip level

Skip-level meetings are an excellent tool to gain insight into your company's culture, strengths, and shortcomings in a one-on-one setting. If you manage managers, setting up a recurring meeting with their direct reports is a great way to understand how your direct reports are leading. 

Additionally, a skip-level meeting helps you get insight into how your employees are feeling about the business, culture, and leadership. Lastly, it allows you to uncover the obstacles that are preventing teams from producing their best work.

Here, Michael Brown shares his skip-level meeting agenda template based on experience as a senior manager at Uber, McKinsey, Facebook, and Newfront Insurance.

What is a skip-level meeting?

A skip-level meeting is a meeting between a direct report and the manager of their manager. 

Like performance reviews and one-on-ones, skip-level meetings help expose issues that otherwise go unnoticed (or unaddressed). They also offer senior team members an opportunity to mentor and assist more junior workers and collect feedback on their manager. Because these meetings are less regular, it's help to use a skip-level meeting template so that every skip-level meeting is as effective as it can be.

Where should you have your skip-level meeting?

Like one-on-ones, skip-level meetings often benefit from being held a more casual setting. This setting might be over a meal or while taking a walk. If the meeting is in a conference room or office, try to position yourself neutrally. Instead of sitting behind laptops across a big table, sit a few seats away, with an open posture. Even if they don’t show it, junior team members can be intimidated in this setting, and you’ll have a better meeting if everyone is at ease.

What questions should you ask in a skip-level meeting?

This sample meeting agenda has a lot of good questions for a skip-level meeting. Check out this article for 31 examples of good questions for skip-level meetings. Here are some of the questions:

  • What works well in the department right now? (i.e. systems, processes, technology, feedback, etc.)
  • What needs improvement and/or what obstacles are preventing you from being successful? (i.e. technology, top-level support, more feedback, etc.)
  • What is one thing, as a department, we need to start doing right away to be more successful?
  • What is one thing, as a department, we need to stop doing right away to be more successful?
  • What is one thing, as a department, we need to make sure we continue to do in order to be successful?
  • What do you need more or less of from your manager or myself in order to be successful as a department and in your role?
  • What’s one thing your manager or I could improve on?
  • What’s one thing your manager or I could have done to make that meeting, presentation, or project go better?
  • How did [name of project] go from your perspective?
  • What do you think your manager or I could’ve done differently on [name of project]?

About the author

Michael Brown

Michael Brown

Michael Brown is the COO of Newfront Insurance, a modern insurance brokerage that leverages technology to vastly simplify the buying process for clients and the selling process for brokers. Mike grew up in the Bay Area and attended Yale University (BA) and Stanford Business School (MBA). Mike has an exceptional track record in business, with stints at McKinsey and executive leadership positions at Facebook and Twitter, followed most recently by the role of Regional General Manager, Asia for Uber between 2015-2017.

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