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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 9, individuals will have to identify where they need to involve other people in their plans and how to engage them with the effort. 

In earlier steps, individuals explored how to set goals and start to develop plans by thinking about the required tasks and resources. Although the previous step touched on the importance of human resources, involving others in plans is worth additional focus.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • The support others could give you
  • Who the right people are to support you at different times 
  • How to engage people with plans

Reflection questions

  • When do we need to involve other people to achieve our plans?
  • Why are people different to other types of resources?
  • How can you convince people to support you in achieving your plans?

What you need to know

Why you might need to involve other people

Sometimes, we cannot complete our goals by ourselves. This is particularly true for bigger goals, or long-term goals. 

Other people can play a critical role in bringing plans into action. They might offer support in many different forms:

  • Advising on your goals or plans.
  • Making connections or introductions to other people who can help.
  • Helping you to secure the resources that you need, including financial resources.
  • Completing some of the tasks. 
  • Sharing the goal with you if it is something you want to achieve together. 
  • Setting your goal to start with – perhaps if they are in a position of authority.
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Who to involve in your plans

Involving the right people to support you to achieve your goals is essential. You will want to think about how they might be able to help you by thinking about:

  • Do they have particular skills, expert knowledge or experience of what you are trying to do? If so, they might be good for advice or to help.
  • Do they have strong networks of people they know who might be able to help you or provide you with resources, even if they can’t directly? If so, they might be good for connections.
  • Do they control particular resources that you might need – like a space you need, a physical asset like a machine or technology? In which case, they can help you to secure that resource. 
  • Do they also have a strong interest in achieving the same goal – for example, if you are on a team together? In this case, you might be able to work together to share the goal. 
  • Do you need them to give permission for you to work towards your goal – perhaps because they are in a senior position? In this case, you will need to get them to agree to what you want to do.
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How to engage other people

When you engage people to support your plans in any of the ways above, you will need to convince them. Convincing them is like persuading them so that they make the decision that they want to help you out. 

There are several parts to persuading people to support you:

  • Showing them why the goal that you are working towards is worthwhile: What will be different if you achieve the goal? Why does it matter to you personally? How have you already shown that you are committed to achieving the goal? 
  • Explaining why helping you will be good for them: What will their reward for helping you? This might be financial if you are paying them for their help, or it might be that your achieving your goal helps them to complete one of their goals, or it might just be that they can take satisfaction out of seeing the goal completed.
  • Giving them confidence that you can do it: If people are going to help you, they want to know that you are likely to be successful. How can you show that you are likely to be successful? What have you done in the past that was similar?  
  • Showing how their support will make the difference: Why do you need them to help you? What would be the problem if they did not help you?
  • Being open to their advice: Show that you are prepared to change or improve your plans if they have good advice.
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Traps to avoid

There are also some traps to avoid:

  • Just telling people they should help you, or presuming that they should.
  • Trying to make people feel guilty about not helping you or threatening them to help.
  • Assuming that people will know any of the answers to the questions above without you talking about it.

If you use these ideas, then you are much more likely to be able to get the support you need to achieve your goals.

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Advice for

Individuals

Why this skill step matters in education

Schools, colleges and universities have many different types of resources available, including people to help you. We might meet friends who can help us with the same goal like a ‘study buddy’. It’s important to know where you can go for extra help. We can speak to a teacher to offer support with our study goals and plans or setting us targets. If we wanted help with our goals for the future and work, we might speak to a careers adviser. Student services might know about which scholarships or grants are available to help pay for new sports, music or science equipment or an educational visit. It’s important to remember that when we ask others for help, we are open and clearly explain how their support will make a difference.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Every job will involve working with others in some way. We may rely on connections to meet people who can help us or introductions to new clients, customers and job opportunities. We may work directly in a team where colleagues help complete tasks. Managers or mentors might set goals for us so that we know what we are working towards and what success looks like. Similarly to schools and universities, organisations will have different people available to offer support and advice, either as part of their role or a chosen department called Human Resources. While some jobs officially involve engaging other people like teaching, fundraising, advertising and politics, we all need to persuade others to support us at some point in our work. Involving others in the best way can help us learn and open up new opportunities.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

The goals we set in our personal lives might be difficult to achieve on our own. For example, we might find it easier to reach our fitness goals if we join an exercise class or team so that we have the support of others. If we wanted to make improvements in our community, we would need to engage the support from our neighbours and possibly from local businesses and the council as well; it would be too difficult to do this on our own. It’s important to remember the opportunities available with the support of those around us. In our social lives, we might be introduced to someone with the same interests as us through our network of friends and relatives; connections could lead to setting up a new initiative together like a book club or community group.

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!

  • Take a goal you are working on which will need the support of one or more others (for example, making something, painting a room, setting up a stall or event to raise money for charity). Who can you go to for help? How will you engage their support? What support will you need from them exactly?
  • If you find you are stuck for ideas, think about who you know or could go to for advice. Do you know someone who has had a similar experience?
  • Think of a new skill you would like to learn. Ask your friends, peers or family if they can introduce you to someone who can help.
  • Plan a day out with friends or family. Think about who you will involve for support and the resources you will need. How can you engage them by planning an exciting day they will enjoy?

Build this step

Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can introduce the idea that for most of our goals, we need other people to help us. The teacher can model this with some examples from their own lives about how they have to engage other people to achieve lots of their goals and tasks.
  • The teacher could ask learners to reflect on some of the different ways that people could help them to achieve their goals, and mind map some ideas. These should tally with the broad areas outlined above. 
  • The teacher can then ask learners to think about what sort of people they would need to help them in those different ways, and how they might be able to find them.
  • Learners could put this into practice by thinking about a goal they might have, and who they would need to help them and in what different ways.
  • Finally, the focus switches to how to persuade people to help – learners could try out some of the ideas by scripting what they might say, or trying it out in role-play conversation. The teacher could also introduce some of the things to avoid, so learners can see what the effect would be.

Reinforcing it

This is another element that can be reinforced in classrooms where learners take responsibility for their goals and creating plans to achieve them. It might also be possible for them to think about how they persuade people of something they want support or help with, and to try out this persuasive talk in the classroom. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through an extended project, where learners have to put their ideas into practice and persuade people to help them to achieve their goals. Where this is not possible, a shorter simulation could be used, including the use of scripting or role play to act out persuasive conversations.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to individuals who can help the team to succeed by making plans to achieve goals. 

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

  • Discuss with the individual why it is important to involve people in your plans and explain that for most of our goals, we need other people to help us.
  • Model how to persuade people into helping you achieve their goals. Here, a manager could script out what they might say to show the individual an example of effective phrases they might use. When modelling, a manager might also show what not to say to help the individual avoid some of the traps illustrated above. 
  • Task an individual on an exercise where they identify different ways people could help them to achieve their goals, mind-mapping ideas as they go along. These should tally with the broad areas outlined above.
  • Reflect with the individual about who in the workplace does this well, helping them identify potential role models they can emulate.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When setting goals and making plans to achieve them, with a focus on identifying the right people to help support our plans.
  • Working with customers or clients: Whilst working to achieve a result for a customer, with an emphasis on persuading others to help us. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through a discussion and collecting feedback from stakeholders. For instance:

  • A manager might start a discussion with an individual about how they might involve others in a plan in order to achieve a goal. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual’s explanation on how they would go about this.
  • To supplement this, a manager might observe the individual if they then go on to implement the plan. Here they can look for evidence that they can effectively persuade others to support them.
  • It can be useful to review feedback from stakeholders who work with the individual. This feedback could describe how well the individual has engaged them in a plan. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual take part in an exercise. This exercise could require the individual to generate a plan and engage others to support it. This could be a two-part exercise: the first part could be a written exercise where an individual writes down their part, the second half could be a role play or presentation where the individual can demonstrate how they would elicit support for their plan.

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

Parents & Carers

At home, you can easily support your child to build their essential skills. The good news is that there
are lots of ways that you can have a big impact, including:

  • Talking with your child about the essential skills, what they are and how they are useful in all
    aspects of life, whether at school, home or in the workplace
  • Talking about how you use these skill steps in your own work or wider life
  • Helping your child to identify where they already build their skills at school, at home or
    through other activities and clubs
  • Praising your child when they show they are using the skills well, and helping them to feel a
    sense of achievement
  • Encouraging them to recognise and talk confidently about their skill strengths with others, and
    supporting them to develop their skills further

More resources