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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 4, individuals will show that they can manage the completion of tasks within time constraints, and make sure team members have the resources they need to complete the tasks.

In the previous step, the focus was on how to divide up tasks between others fairly. This step builds on this by thinking about other things that need to be managed to complete a job.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to manage the time of a team
  • How to ensure your team have the right resources 
  • How to support your team

Reflection questions

  • Why is it important for a leader to be able to manage time and resources?
  • What sort of resources might you have to manage? 
  • How can you support your team?
  • What could you do if things don’t go to plan?
  • Do you have any examples of having managed a task like this?

What you need to know

Being aware of time

A critical part of managing is to be aware of time. Lots of tasks will have deadlines attached to them – a time that a task has to be completed by. If a deadline is missed, it might mean that:

  • The task is no longer worth doing - for example, a newspaper that misses its publishing deadline won’t be in the shops the next day.
  • Other tasks that rely on this task being finished can’t start.
  • There are delays that cause inconvenience to others.
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Managing the time of your team

It is critical from the beginning to be clear about how much time you have, and then telling the team this very clearly. You should also explain why this deadline has been set, so that they take it seriously. 

You can then work out how long the different tasks will take, and by allocating them between team members how long everything will take. You should always allow extra time, because things often take longer than we expect.

Once you have shared the tasks out among your team, you need to think about how you will know if you’re on track. Some jobs might all be done in an hour or a day – others will run over weeks or months. In either case, you cannot afford to wait until the deadline to work out if you are on time or not.

Instead, you should think about asking your team to think about when they will finish each of their different tasks. This way, you can check at that time whether they are finished, which helps you to understand that everything is going correctly. It is also helpful for them because it is motivating to see progress made, and will be calming for them to know if they are on track to finish on time.

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Giving your team the right resources

Resources are those things that people need to complete the tasks that you have given them. They might include things like:

  • Tools like stationery, screwdrivers, saws 
  • Technology like computers, printers, tablets, phones 
  • Materials like paper, wood, metal, plastic, screws 
  • Money to buy resources they need

It is your job as the leader to make sure that people have what they need to complete their tasks, or can acquire those resources.

At times, it might be that team members need to share resources to complete their tasks. If this is the case, then you need to think carefully to ensure that those tasks are not planned to happen at the same time.

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Supporting your team in advance of the task

Before the tasks begin, you can support your team by:

  • Being clear about what needs to happen and inviting questions or alternative ideas to make how you divide up tasks better. Remember, in the end you have to make the decision.
  • Reminding the team about what the timeline is and when different things need to be ready.
  • Telling your team that you are prepared to help them if they need it.
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Supporting your team throughout the task

Once tasks are underway, there are a few key things that you should do as a leader to ensure that the tasks are a success:

  • Check how everyone is getting on – if someone is struggling, then help them out or think about whether you have shared out tasks in the right way (see Step 3).
  • Remind people of the time, and check that tasks are completing at the time they were meant to be. If they are not, then you should decide whether it is okay for them to run a bit late, or whether you need to share tasks out differently or give them extra help. 
  • Be positive about progress, so people feel encouraged to keep working, but don’t ignore problems – just try to fix them quickly.
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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should introduce the idea of how we lead a team to complete a set of tasks, starting by how we allocate tasks between different individuals. This is a recap of Step 4, but provides essential context for this next step. 
  • This step can be taught effectively by walking learners through a simulation or a real-life task – for example, by creating a production line for greetings cards. Each team will have one allocated leader, but will have to discuss the decisions together, so all learners have the experience of decision-making. 
  • Using this simulation, learners can create a plan of how to allocate different tasks and how to plan out how to reach a deadline. They also have to decide how to assign a limited number of resources between their team mates.
  • Once underway, the leader should follow the guidelines discussed to support their team mates and ensure that the task is completed successfully.
  • The teacher can introduce most of the ideas in structuring the exercise as runs, and it would also be valuable to lead a reflection at the end of the session so that learners can firm up their understanding of what this looks like in practice. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced when learners have the opportunity to work together in teams on a project or extended task. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observation of an individual through a simulated task, as laid out above, or on a real-life project. The teacher can look for evidence that they were able to think about the tasks that needed to be completed, the time available, and how resources should be allocated. During the task, they can look for evidence that the leader is working to support the others in his team.

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:

  • Check an individual understands the concepts explained in Step 3 as these are prerequisites to perform this skill step. To do this a manager can ask an individual to explain how they would allocate tasks to a team.
  • Show an individual the consequences of not managing the team’s time or resources, by explaining what effect this may have on the task to be completed. Here, a manager might draw on their own experiences.
  • Task an individual to create a checklist of actions they should take in order to support the effective completion of tasks.
  • Reflect with the individual about the barriers to providing the right time and resources to the team. 

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When we are supporting others to complete a task, with a focus on giving them what they need to get the job done.   
  • Working with customers or clients: When interacting with customers about the specification of a task to be completed, so that you can in turn make the right resources available to the team. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed by observing the individual over time as they support a team to complete a task. This exercise could be a simulation or real life project. To support observations, a manager could stage a number of reflective conversations with the individual to look for evidence that they were able to think about the tasks that needed to be completed, the time available, and how resources should be allocated. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • A manager could have a reflective conversation with an individual to check they understand the key aspects of how to support completion of a task, as they are described above. For further evidence, a manager could ask the individual to describe a time when they have done this.

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

In education, we often have individual tasks to complete by a specific deadline,for example, home learning. Failure to achieve the deadline reflects on us personally but does not necessarily let down other people. Group projects, for example an assembly, organising a charity event, or a school trip, include tasks which will impact negatively on others if they are not completed on time. In education, the required resources will usually be provided but it may be necessary to share them appropriately between members of the group. Confidence in this step of Leadership will ensure you are able to manage the time as well as the use and sharing of resources effectively.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace, most jobs and roles are closely linked to the jobs of other people. The sales team need to communicate their requirements to the production department who in turn need to liaise with the supply team and distribution. The business processes are all very dependent upon each other and need to work in harmony if the business or organisation is to be successful. The ability to manage time and resources, so deadlines can be met, is crucial and a key responsibility for anyone in a management role.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In our relationships with friends and family we often recognise that there is someone in our circle who can be relied upon to resolve an organisational crisis or to calm a situation when things have not gone according to plan. It is highly likely that most of these situations are ones where people are late, things have not turned up or items needed are not where they should be. The ability to remain calm and to keep events and people on track is a sign that someone has mastered this step of Leadership. They can manage people, time and resources so that things happen when they are supposed to, whether it is for a social gathering, a sports match or another activity.

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 of a time when you did not complete something by a promised deadline. Did your delay affect someone else? How did they react? How did you feel? How could you have done things differently?
  • Have you ever been unable to complete a task because you did not have the things(resources) you needed? Why were they not available to you? Could you have organised things differently so you had the resources when you needed them? Why did you not do this?
  • Think about a deadline you have been given recently, whether it be for home learning or a work or home task. What did you do to ensure you met the deadline? Would you manage things differently next time?

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