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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 3, individuals will be able to divide up tasks between others in a justifiable way. 

In the earlier steps of Leadership, the focus was on individuals being able to identify and express their own emotions and then those of others. The focus now shifts to thinking about task management.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to divide up tasks
  • How to share tasks out in a fair way 
  • How to spot if there are problems

Reflection questions

  • What do we mean by tasks?
  • How can you share tasks between people in a fair way?
  • How can you tell if there are problems with how you have divided up tasks?
  • Do you have any examples of having done this?

What you need to know

Dividing up tasks

When we want to do something as a team, it often does not make sense for everyone to be trying to do the same thing at the same time. 

Instead, we might want to divide up the job into smaller tasks that different people can do. In the end, all of these various tasks should add up to the job being completed.

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Things to think about

When we divide up tasks, we want to think about some questions:

  • Is the task something that one person can do, or does it depend on something else happening?
  • Does the task need some special skills so that not everyone will be able to do it?
  • How long will the task take to complete?
  • How difficult is the task – will it use a lot of thinking effort, or lots of physical effort?
  • How enjoyable is the task?
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Limits to sharing out tasks

When we share tasks out, we will be limited by:

  • Only being able to give tasks using specialist skills to those who have them
  • Some tasks being limited in who they can be given to, if they are dependent on other tasks being completed too.
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How to share out tasks in a fair way

Otherwise, we can try to be as fair as possible. Ideas of what is fair will be different from person to person, but we should try to make sure that everyone has tasks which:

  • Use a similar amount of physical or mental effort (unless someone prefers these sorts of tasks, when we might give them more of them).
  • Take a similar amount of time (unless team members differ in how much time they have).
  • Are about as enjoyable or unenjoyable as each other.
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How to spot if there are problems

In the previous step, we looked at how you might be able to understand how other people feel about things. It might be that when you shared tasks out, you did not have enough information about how long the different tasks would take, or know enough about what people enjoyed or felt able to do.

If you can tell that people are unhappy, then you should use some of the ideas in Step 2 to have a conversation about what is wrong and then think again about how to share the tasks.

You might also spot a problem if some tasks are taking too long, or someone is struggling to complete a task. In this case, you might be able to help them out, or ask someone else to take on that task or some other tasks to share things out evenly again. 

The best way to avoid problems, though, is to talk to your team about how you have divided up tasks, and how you decided how to share them between people before you start. This way, people can talk about any concerns before you get started.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should introduce the idea of how we work with people to get things done and how we have to think in terms of tasks. Learners could think of examples of tasks that might need to be completed as part of a bigger job – for instance, in setting up an event like a cake sale or a simulated challenge like building a newspaper tower. 
  • The teacher can introduce how to think about sharing out the tasks among team members. For example, thinking about how long the different tasks would take, the skills they would need, and how difficult or enjoyable they are. This could be applied to either a hypothetical event or, better, to the simulated challenge.
  • In the simulated problem, learners could then put their ideas into action, and use reflection to explore whether they had managed to divide up tasks in a fair way, and how they dealt with any mistakes as they came up. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced by encouraging learners to divide up tasks between them when there are opportunities for them to work together. The teacher can help to raise awareness of what they should be thinking about when making these decisions, and encouraging them to reflect on how effective their approach was at the end. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through a structured activity, where learners are given a job and have to think about the tasks and how they might be divided up fairly between the team they have been allocated. A reflection discussion at the end will help to show whether they applied sensible thinking to how to divide up tasks fairly.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to all individuals who allocate work to other people.

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

  • Discuss with the individual why it is important to share tasks in a fair way. During this discussion, a manager might reflect with the individual on when they have seen tasks shared in an unfair way in the workplace. 
  • Model how to share tasks in a fair way providing the individual with an example they can follow. Using an example from their experience, a manager can show how to divide and share a task. This model can show how to allocate tasks in a way that accounts for how taxing the task is, whether there any conditions attached it and how enjoyable it might be. 
  • Task an individual on an exercise to produce a contingency plan with a set of measures they could enact, if things go wrong. To achieve this an individual can first brainstorm some of the things that might go wrong with the tasks they’ve shared, before listing some actions they could take to bring tasks back under control.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When an opportunity arises to divide up tasks between members of the group, with an emphasis on making sure this is fair.
  • Working with customers or clients: When working to a deadline, to meet a customer’s expectation, with a focus on sharing the work in a way that helps us to meet our target. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed by observing the individual as they take part in an exercise. This exercise should require they divide up tasks and share them in a way that is fair. For instance:

  • Observing an individual during a team meeting where work to be done is being discussed. Evidence of this skill step in action can be found in the individual considering the nature of the tasks to be shared and then doing so in a fair way.
  • To support the observation, a manager might ask stakeholders who work regularly with the individual to describe how frequently the individual shares tasks in a fair way, based on their experience of working with them. This can provide additional insight into how regularly this individual demonstrates the skill step at work. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Reviewing an individual’s performance after they take part in an assessed exercise. This exercise could present the individual with a scenario: for example, how they would launch a product in a new market. This exercise can provide an opportunity for an individual to show how they would divide up tasks and allocate them fairly to others in the team. 
  • After they complete the exercise, a hiring manager might have a reflective conversation with the individual to understand how they considered the time different tasks would take, the skills they would need, and how difficult or enjoyable they are.

Build this step

Advice for

Organisations

As an individual, you might be thinking about how best to support your own essential skills. The good news is that there is lots that you can do that will have a big impact, including:

  • Looking at the Universal Framework to spot skill steps that you think you need to work on. It is normally best to start from the lowest step that you don’t feel confident on, and go from there.
  • Keeping a record of the skill steps that you want to work on, and writing down when you practice them, and when you feel you are making progress.
  • Talk to someone you trust about what you are trying to do – whether a teacher, family member, manager or a peer. They can help give you feedback on how you are doing, and celebrate your progress with you.

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

  • Short activities that you can use to build the essential skills
  • Regular challenges to put those skills into action
  • Ways to record and capture your essential skills, so you can see progress and talk to other people about how you are getting on

More resources

Advice for

Individuals

Why this skill step matters in education

In education, we often do a piece of work as a group, for example, a class project, an assembly, a piece of drama, an art display, or a charity fundraising event. Each of these larger tasks include many smaller tasks which need to be completed to make the whole event or project a success.

Success at this stage of Leadership will ensure that the allocation of tasks is reasonable and fair. Whilst everyone may not be completely happy with the allocation of tasks, your confidence in the earlier steps of Leadership will enable you to understand the emotions of your team. Once you can identify and understand how others feel about the allocation of tasks, you are in a position to explain and support so that all the tasks are completed within the time-frame and the finished project is a success.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

The workplace is made up of many departments or teams and each has many projects or tasks which require completion. Tasks are likely to be allocated to individuals on a regular and consistent basis. The allocation of tasks must be managed in a fair manner. If this is not the case,employees may become disgruntled, unhappy and or even leave the business. It is costly to replace employees and so it is important to ensure that tasks are consistently allocated fairly and reasonably.

Success at this step, will ensure you use the strategies learned to discuss the allocation with colleagues, understand when someone may be unhappy and act appropriately to ensure the tasks are all completed effectively. Employees will be happy to take their share of the more mundane, time consuming or challenging tasks if they understand the reasoning for the allocation and believe it to be fair.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In the wider world it is less likely that you are completing a project or being allocated tasks by a manger. However, there are times when a larger activity requires several people to take on a smaller task. This sharing of tasks prevents one person having to do all the work. For example, on a family or friends camping trip, it would be unrealistic to expect one person to put up all the tents and do all the cooking. Likewise, when tidying the house, life is easier if a number of people all take a smaller part and tidy one area each,rather than one person do all the work.

The ability to share tasks fairly is a real strength of leadership and by applying the strategies learned at this step you will be able to understand the feelings of others and help to ensure allocation are reasonable, understood and fair.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Leadership, 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!

  • Think about a time when you felt the task allocated to you were not fair. How did this make you feel? Did anyone talk to you about the reasons why the tasks were allocated to you? Did anyone talk to you about how you felt? What would you like to have happened?
  • Imagine you were planning a big birthday party for a friend. Make a list of all the tasks that need to be completed before the party. For each task, record the name of a friend or family member that you think would be the best person to complete each task. Think about why you selected that person and try to write down all the reasons. How do you think each person would feel about the task they had been allocated?
  • When you are next in a group and tasks are being allocated to individuals, look at each person in turn and try to work out how you think they feel about their allocation? Did the leader talk to anyone who was unhappy? Was the allocation changed?

Build this step

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.

Build this step