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Skip-level 1:1s are your hidden superpower

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In addition to 1:1 meetings with your direct reports, you should be hosting periodic 1:1s with people that are further down in the reporting chain and with your peers in other groups.

The skip level 1:1 is a very underutilized tool. A skip-level is a 1:1 conversation with people who report to your direct reports, and perhaps to the people who report to the people who report to your reports.

If you want to really know what’s going on in your organization, you have to talk to the people who are doing the work. You can do this by scheduling a weekly 1:1 with someone under you. It doesn’t need to be the same person each week, and it also doesn’t need to be just one level removed. In fact, it’s useful to constantly rotate between different people for the skip level. As you rise in the reporting structure, you should even schedule 1:1s with people all the way down the ladder to get a sense of what is happening “on the ground.” If I were the CEO of a 10,000 person company, I’d be talking to the most junior folks in the company at least a couple times a month.

Don’t just think of skip levels with people under you. Schedule peer 1:1s with folks in other parts of the organization that you work with. If you’re an engineering manager, talk to other engineering managers. Talk to marketing. Talk to product support.

A peer 1:1 will be different in tone than a skip-level, but the desired output is the same. Use these to catch up on what’s going on in your peer’s world. What’s going well, what issues are they seeing? Who is being particularly helpful or difficult? You’re using these to understand the big picture surrounding your work and to make sure that other teams have you in their big picture.

Peer 1:1s can be far more infrequent. For the most part, I find that catching up every 3-5 weeks is plenty, and it’s not terribly harmful if you have to skip them here and there.

Expanding your definition about who to hold 1:1s with will help you have a much better view of what’s happening in your company.

This is one of a series of posts about holding 1:1s. View the rest of the series.

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