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Listening

The receiving, retaining and processing of information or ideas
This skill is all about being able to effectively receive information - whether it comes from customers, colleagues or stakeholders.

Initially, the skill steps concentrate on being able to listen effectively to others - including remembering short instructions, understanding why others are communication and recording important information.

Individuals then focus on how they demonstrate that they are listening effectively, thinking about body language, open questioning and summarising and rephrasing.

Beyond that, the focus is on being aware of how they might be being influenced by a speaker, through tone and language.

The final steps are about critical listening - comparing perspectives, identifying biases, evaluating ideas and being objective.

Speaking

The oral transmission of information or ideas
This skill is all about how to communicate effectively with others, being mindful of whether they are talking to customers, colleagues or other stakeholders and in different settings.

Initially, this skill focuses on being able to speak clearly - first with well known individuals and small groups and then with those who are not known.

The next stage is about being an effective speaker by making points logically, by thinking about what listeners already know and using appropriate language, tone and gesture.

Beyond that, individuals focus on speaking engagingly through use of facts and examples, visual aids, and their expression and gesture.

Beyond that stage, speakers will be adaptive to the response of their listeners and ready for different scenarios. The final steps focus on speaking influentially - using structure, examples, facts and vision to persuade listeners.

Problem Solving

The ability to find a solution to a situation or challenge
This skill focuses on how to solve problems, recognising that while part of Problem Solving is technical know-how and experience, there are also transferable tools that individuals can develop and use.

The first steps focus on being able to follow instructions to complete tasks, seeking help and extra information if needed. The next stage focuses on being able to explore problems by creating and assessing different potential solutions. This includes more complex problems, without a simple technical solution.

Beyond this, the focus is on exploring complex solutions - thinking about causes and effects, generating options, and evaluating those options. This extends into analysis using logical reasoning and hypotheses.

Finally, individuals implement strategic plans to solve complex problems, assess their success, and draw out learning for the future.

Creativity

The use of imagination and the generation of new ideas
Creativity is the complement to Problem Solving, and is about generating innovations or ideas which can then be honed through the problem-solving process.

The first few steps focus on the individual's confidence in imagining different situations and sharing their ideas.

The focus is then on generating ideas - using a clear brief, making improvements to something that already exists and combining concepts.

Individuals then apply creativity in the context of their work and their wider life. They can build off this to develop ideas using tools like mind mapping, questioning, and considering different perspectives.

The most advanced steps focus on building effective innovation in group settings and by seeking out varied experiences and stimuli. Finally, individuals support others to innovate, by sharing tools, identifying the right tools for the situation and through coaching.

Staying Positive

The ability to use tactics and strategies to overcome setbacks and achieve goals
This skill is all about individuals being equipped to manage their emotions effectively and being able to remain motivated, and ultimately to motivate others, even when facing setbacks.

The early steps focus on identifying emotions - particularly feeling positive or negative. Building off that is the ability to keep trying - and then staying calm, thinking about what went wrong, and trying to cheer up and encourage others.

The focus then turns to identifying new opportunities in difficult situations, sharing those, and adapting or creating plans accordingly. At more advanced steps, individuals identify and manage risks and gains in opportunities.

Finally, individuals support others to stay positive by managing their own response, helping others to see opportunities and creating plans to achieve them.

Aiming High

The ability to set clear, tangible goals and devise a robust route to achieving them
This skill is about being able to plan effectively - both to achieve organisational goals, and also to set their own personal development targets. Initially, this is about knowing when something is too difficult, and having a sense of what doing well looks like for an individual.

The focus is then about working with care and attention, taking pride in success and having a positive approach to new challenges. Building on this, individuals set goals for themselves, informed by an understanding of what is needed, and then be able to order and prioritise tasks, secure resources and involve others effectively.

At the higher steps, the focus is creating plans informed by an individual's skill set, with clear targets, and building on external views. At the most advanced level, individuals develop long-term strategies. These are informed by an assessment of internal and external factors, structured through regular milestones and feedback loops.

Leadership

Supporting, encouraging and developing others to achieve a shared goal
This skill is relevant not only for individuals in positions of management with formal power, but also for individuals working with peers in teams.

At the earliest stages, the focus is on basic empathy - understanding their own feelings, being able to share them, and recognising the feelings of others. The focus is on managing - dividing up tasks, managing time and sharing resources, managing group discussions and dealing with disagreements.

Beyond that, individuals build their awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of their teams. This allows them to allocate tasks effectively. They then build techniques to mentor, coach and motivate others. At the highest steps, individuals will be able to reflect on their own leadership style and understand its effect on others.

Ultimately, they should be able to build on their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses, and adapt their leadership style to the situation.

Teamwork

Working cooperatively with others towards achieving a shared goal
This skill applies to working within both formal and informal teams, and also with customers, clients or other stakeholders. Initially, this is about individuals fulfilling expectations around being positive, behaving appropriately, being timely and reliable and taking responsibility. This extends to understanding and respecting diversity of others' cultures, beliefs and backgrounds.

The next steps focus on making a contribution to a team through group decision making recognising the value of others' ideas and encourage others to contribute too.Beyond that, individuals improve their teams through managing conflict and building relationships beyond the immediate team. At the top steps, individuals focus on how they influence their team through suggesting improvements and learning lessons from setbacks.

Ultimately, individuals support the team by evaluating others strengths and weaknesses and bringing in external expertise and relationships.

To achieve Step 7, individuals will show that they can start turning goals into action by ordering and prioritising the tasks that are needed. 

In the previous steps, the focus was on how to develop goals, first by thinking about what individuals want to achieve, and then thinking about the wider needs of others, whether in groups or organisations. This step looks at how to start to work towards achieving those goals.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to identify tasks to be done 
  • How to put these tasks into a logical order

Reflection questions

  • What do we mean by tasks?
  • How do tasks link to goals?
  • Can you give examples of how this might work?
  • How can we organise the tasks that need to be done?
  • What is a logical order?

What you need to know

Achievable goals

So far, we have been thinking of goals as what needs to be achieved. We have looked at targets as how to see whether a goal has been achieved or not.

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Tasks to be done

Tasks are the pieces of work that need to be done. Achieving any goal required lots of individual tasks to be done. Mid- or long-term goals might mean completing tens or even hundreds of tasks to achieve them. 

For example, if our goal is to learn a new language, then one of our targets might be to remember 50 pieces of vocabulary accurately. Our tasks might then be to write out the 50 pieces of vocabulary with their translations, then to writing each out further times, then to cover them and to try to write them again, and then to check whether we had written them accurately. We might repeat these tasks several times until we are accurate. 

If we are serious about achieving goals for ourselves, we need to be able to break those goals down into the tasks that we need to complete.

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Putting tasks into a logical order

The order of tasks matters. There are several ways to think about how to order tasks:

  • Dependency: It might be that some tasks can only be completed in a particular order. For example, you can’t ice a cake before it has been baked, and you can’t bake a cake before all of the ingredients have been mixed together. If something needs to be done before you can do the next task, then this gives you a logical order.
  • Priority: In some cases, when there are lots of tasks to do and no dependency, then we will want to think about which tasks are most important. For example, we might have twenty ideas about how to get people to come to an event – if we’re not sure whether we might have time to do all twenty, then it makes sense to start with the ones we think will have the most significant effect. 
  • External dependencies: It might be that some tasks rely on something or someone else out of your control to complete them. For example, you might need your oven to be fixed before you can bake a cake. In this case, you could organise tasks to get things ready and then wait until your oven is repaired to moving on to the baking stage. Alternatively, you might need someone to permit you to do something – there will be some tasks that you cannot do until that permission has received, so you should plan around that. 
  • Parallel tasks: In some cases, it might be possible to work on more than one task at a time. For example, while the cake is baking, we might be making the icing in preparation for the cake coming out of the oven – or we might be making a cup of tea to have when the cake is ready. In organisations, individuals are often working on different tasks alongside each other.

We can use these principles to help us to arrange tasks into the order that makes it most efficient to complete them and so to achieve our goals. 

We can also think about how long tasks are likely to take, so that we can put them on a timeline, and work out how long achieving a goal is expected to take as a result.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can introduce the concept of tasks as how goals can be achieved. This is best illustrated by examples, and then by asking learners to create their own ideas of the tasks that might be needed to achieve a particular goal.
  • The concept of ordering tasks could be introduced by the teacher creating, with input from the learners, a mind map of all the tasks that would be needed to run some sort of event in school. The mind map can be expanded in areas like publicity to think of lots of ideas of tasks that could be completed.
  • The teacher should then guide learners through thinking about how they might organise completing these tasks, thinking about: which tasks are dependent on others; where there are priorities; where there are external dependencies; and where it might be possible for tasks to be completed in parallel. Thinking along a timeline can be helpful for this. 
  • Learners could break down a goal into at least ten tasks. Learners can be encouraged to think about how these tasks are ordered to create a plan, and then present or discuss why they have ordered the tasks in the way they have. 

 Reinforcing it

Where learners are set projects, extended tasks or pieces of work, the teacher can encourage them to create a plan. This means taking the goal and identifying all the tasks that need to completed, then ordering these tasks and putting them on a timeline. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through an assessed activity: Learners can be set a goal, be asked to break it down into tasks and then to create a timeline of those tasks. Discussion can explore why learners have made the choices they have, and whether these are based on a good understanding of the step.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to individuals who have to organise how they do their work and their plans.

To build this step in the work environment, managers could:

  • Explain the concept of tasks as how goals can be achieved. This can be illustrated by examples. 
  • Discuss with an individual the tasks that might be needed to achieve a particular goal. To make this concrete, a manager might use an example of a goal the individual is currently working on
  • Model how to think about completing these tasks by providing an example. This example could show which tasks are dependent on others; where there are priorities; where there are external dependencies; and where it might be possible for tasks to be completed in parallel. A manager might present this in the form of a timeline or chart to help the individual to visualise this.
  • Task an individual on an exercise where they break down a goal into ten tasks. Individuals can be encouraged to think about how these tasks are ordered to create a plan, and then present or discuss them. 

Practising it:

There are plenty of opportunities for building this skill in the workplace:

  • Working with colleagues: During projects, extended tasks or pieces of work, where there is an opportunity to create a plan to deliver this work.
  • Working with customers or clients: When working to achieve a result for a customer, with an emphasis on using a plan which can guide us. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through a reflective conversation. For instance:

  • Asking an individual to describe a time when they have used a plan to deliver a achieve a goal. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual referencing some of the techniques above in the carrying out of their plan

Spotting it in recruitment: 

During the recruitment process, this step could be assessed for by:

  • Observing an individual take part in an assessed activity: an individual can be set a goal, be asked to break it down into tasks and then be tasked to create a timeline of those tasks. 
  • After they take part in the exercise, an individual can be interviewed. The questions put to them can explore the reasons why they have made the choices they have.

Build this step

Advice for

Organisations

We work with a wide range of organisations, who use the Skills Builder approach in lots of different settings – from youth clubs, to STEM organisations, to careers and employability providers.

We have a lot of materials available to support you to use the Skills Builder Universal Framework with the individuals you work with, including:

  • Tools for self-reflection
  • Materials to support you to teach the skills, if appropriate in your setting
  • Reward systems like printable certificates

We also do a lot of work with organisations who join the Skills Builder Partnership to build the Universal Framework into their work and impact measurement systems. You can find out a lot more using the links below.

More resources

Advice for

Individuals

Why this skill step matters in education

Working towards a goal can feel overwhelming if we don’t break it down into smaller tasks. If we are working on a project, writing an essay or studying for an exam, we can make it more manageable by working out the different tasks and putting them in order. For example, when writing an essay, we might start by reading more information about the topic, making notes, writing a short plan, starting the essay and then checking it before we hand it in. We can use the same approach at the start of a day or week; thinking about what goals we what to achieve and which tasks we need to complete. Planning, ordering and prioritising tasks helps us to manage our goals and keeps us on track to achieving them.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Whether we are working on a long-term strategy or project, or planning our day and week, managing time and tasks to deadlines is essential in every workplace. Short-, mid- and long-term goals can involve many different factors. Some tasks can only be done in a particular order; to avoid making mistakes and wasting resources, we would have to finalise a product before the packaging is designed and manufactured. Even when we make plans, a situation can change quickly and unexpectedly so we may have to decide which tasks will take priority. If a colleague is suddenly unwell, we might take on some of their work or share out tasks in our team to make sure a goal is met.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

Throughout a typical week, we may have many different tasks to complete. We might have perfected the tasks of our morning routine, knowing exactly which order works best so we can get up, get dressed, have breakfast and leave on time. Sometimes it can be helpful to make a to-do list so that we can work out our priorities and manage our time. We might have tasks that depend on other factors like getting to the shops before they close so we have the right ingredients to make dinner or sharing a computer with a sibling and waiting for them to finish their homework before we can use it. If we are relying on something or someone else then we can see if there is another task we can complete while we wait. We might also make plans for longer-term goals like saving up for a trip or special occasion, working out what tasks need to be done and when so that we can achieve our goal. Being able to organise tasks helps us save time and complete our goals, allowing more time to spend doing the things we enjoy.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Aiming High, apply what you have learnt to a real-life situation. Choose one or more of the activities below, remind yourself of the key points and strategies in the step, and have a go!

  • Before making a meal, think about the order in which you will complete the tasks. What will need to be done first? What tasks can be done while it is cooking or in the oven?
  • Before going out, make a list of the tasks which need to be done. What order should you follow? Which tasks are most important? You could tick these off as you go or add them to a calendar or timetable.
  • If you have different tasks due, make a note of the deadlines you need to complete them by and how long you think they will take to do. Work out which tasks are the priority and organise them into an order.
  • If you find yourself with some spare time while waiting for something, think about a task you could complete in that time (phoning a friend, going for a walk, studying, checking emails or tidying up).

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Advice for

Parents & Carers

As a parent or carer, you might be thinking about how best to support your children to build their essential skills. The good news is that there is lots that you can do that will have a big impact, including:

  • Talking about how you use these skill steps in your own life
  • Trying to show how to use the skill steps, and explaining why you are doing what you are doing
  • Praising your children when they show they are using the skills well, and help them to see that as a worthwhile achievement

We’ve developed a whole series of tools and resources to help parents to build these skills, including:

  • Skill stories for the youngest children (aged 3+)
  • Short activities that you can complete together
  • Regular challenges that you can complete at home to build the essential skills
  • Reward systems like printable certificates and badges

There is also content for older children and young people, including short activities and reflections that they can complete alone, or with you.

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