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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 5, individuals will have to show that they can manage group discussions towards shared decisions. 

In earlier steps, the focus was on how leaders manage tasks by sharing them thoughtfully and fairly, and then managing time and resources so that team members can complete those tasks. This step expands on that by engaging team members in that decision-making process.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to organise a meeting 
  • What different roles exist in a meeting
  • How to chair a meeting

Reflection questions

  • What do you need to do to plan a good meeting?
  • How do you make sure everyone has a chance to contribute their ideas?
  • How to you get to decisions? 
  • Have you had experience of bad meetings? What went wrong?

What you need to know

The purpose of meetings

In some jobs, there are endless meetings – in others, they are only occasional. A meeting is when two or more people come together for a discussion for one or more of these reasons:

  • To share information
  • To create new ideas
  • To debate different views and perspectives 
  • To get to know someone and build a relationship 
  • To make decisions
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How to organise a meeting

To run a meeting effectively, there are some things that you need to have decided in advance:

  • Who is organising the meeting? This is the person who will ensure that the right people are invited, that the agenda is decided, information is shared in advance, and there is an appropriate location. 
  • Who is chairing the meeting? There is usually the leader for a meeting, who makes sure that the session runs smoothly, keeps to time, covers the agenda and makes decisions. 
  • What is being covered? The agenda of the meeting is the document which says what is being discussed in the meeting. These different things are typically called Items, and they often have a time allocation for them
  • Who needs to be invited? For meetings to work well, there needs to be careful thought about who is invited: if you ask people who are not required they will have wasted their time; if you miss people out you might have to repeat the meeting so that they get the information. Also, remember that the more people there are in the meeting, the more difficult it is to manage. 
  • How much time is needed? This will depend on how many things need to be covered and how many people are involved. Meetings can vary in length from a 10-minute catch-up to a whole-day or multi-day event.
  • Where will be the meeting be held? The location will depend on how many people are involved and how formal or informal the meeting is. It could be a quick catch-up over coffee, a large meeting around a table, or even need a hall for a very large meeting.
  • What information do attendees need in advance? Think about what you need attendees to think about before the meeting to make the best use of the time. Lots of formal meetings have pre-reading for attendees so that the time can be used on conversation, rather than just sharing information.
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Different roles in a meeting

There will be different roles during a meeting itself. If it is a small meeting, then it is likely that one person will take on more than one of the roles:

  • Chair – this is the person who leads or facilitates the meeting. Their role is to make sure that the Agenda is covered, that the meeting keeps to time, that a range of people speak, and that decisions are made. The Chair is often the leader, or the more senior person at the meeting.
  • Notetaker – for formal meetings, usually there will be someone responsible for writing down a summary of what happened and the decisions. These notes are called Minutes and are shared with the attendees after the meeting. They mean that everyone has a record of what was agreed, and what they need to do next – these are called Actions. 
  • Timekeeper – meetings will often have a timekeeper to help ensure that the Agenda is being covered at a reasonable speed, although the Chair will often take this role.
  • Presenters – in some meetings, information will be shared, and this will be given by people called presenters. These people will typically have prepared in advance what they want to say and will share this information.
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How to chair a meeting

Chairing a meeting is an important role. One of the most critical parts is giving everyone a chance to contribute their ideas or reflections. There are several things to think about to do this well:

  • Be clear on the question you want to answer – this should be the focus of the discussion. This will help to keep people on point.
  • Make sure people have the information they need – if there are presenters, you should make sure they have covered everything that the other attendees need to know to contribute to the discussion.
  • Tell everyone how long you have – if you only have time for short points from people then tell them that, and then they should talk for less time – and it is more comfortable to stop them when they speak for too long.
  • Make sure people stick to the question you want them to think about – you can politely say that you will come back to other points later on, or outside that meeting.
  • Check who has spoken – some people will want to talk more than others and so it is important to encourage quieter people to contribute if they wish.
  • Remember who has particular expertise – if people are experts or have particularly helpful experience on the question, then encourage them to talk.
  • Keep everyone to time – conversations can continue indefinitely if they are not stopped. 
  • Don’t let people talk over each other – it is your job as Chair to make sure that only one person speaks at a time. Politely tell them you will come to them next.
  • Summarise the discussion – remind everyone of what has been discussed, and share the decision. 
  • Clarify decisions – if the decision is not clear, you can either share what you think the choice is, ask further questions to try to understand what everyone thinks, or vote to make a choice. 

Throughout, the way you chair is the most important thing – you need to be polite, calm and clearly in control of what is going on.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should ensure that learners have a shared understanding of what a meeting is, and that meetings come in all sorts of shapes or sizes. Images can help to illustrate that – from the UN General Assembly to two people catching up for coffee. 
  • The best way to teach this step is to simulate a meeting of the whole class in the first instance, modelling how to set an agenda, and all the other preparatory steps.
  • The teacher could chair at this stage, encouraging all learners to participate and keeping the points focused. Another learner could be given the role of note-taker, and another as timekeeper. 
  • Throughout the meeting, the teacher can model how they are following good practice in how they run the meeting. These guidelines can then be shared with learners.
  • It would then be good for learners to have the opportunity to run their own meetings in small groups. They can all be given a meeting purpose, and then come up with their own agendas, chair the meetings, and share the Minutes at the end.

Reinforcing it

This step can be well reinforced if learners have an extended project, although it can also be reinforced through shorter tasks. Reminding learners of the role of a chair and what makes a productive meeting, and then carrying out a reflection afterwards will help them to build their confidence in running sessions in this way. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observing a meeting and how the leader organises and then chairs a meeting. The teacher should look for evidence of effective chairing using some of the guidelines above.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to all individuals who have the opportunity to manage a team conversation. 

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

  • Explain the characteristics of a meeting are. This might involve them describing what the function and purpose of a meeting is. A manager might outline here some of typical roles and duties people perform when they are in a meeting.
  • Model good practice show how to chair a meeting effectively. This might work best by inviting an individual to observe a meeting the manager will to chair. The manager can task the individual to take notes on their technique each stage of the process – from meeting set up to handling questions. After the observation, the manager might task the individual to use their notes a produce some guidelines on how chair a meeting effectively.
  • Reflect with the individual about the opportunities they have to practice applying these guidelines by chairing a meeting. 

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During team meetings when they have an opportunity to chair a meeting, with a focus on following the techniques above to achieve a shared decision.
  • Working with customers or clients: When collecting views from multiple customers or clients, with a focus on chairing the discussion well to get an answer to the specific question you have. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed by observing how the individual sets up and then chairs a meeting. Evidence of this skill step in action can be found in the individual showing they are calm, polite and in control of the meeting. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

During the recruitment process, this step can be assessed by:

  • Questioning an individual during an interview to check they can describe what the features of a good meeting are. It would be good to observe the individual as they perform the role of chair in a simulated meeting, to look for evidence they can apply their knowledge in practice.

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, groups of people frequently gather to discuss an issue. The School Council is a classic example, others might include the planning of an assembly or school/college newsletter. If a discussion is to lead to shared decisions then the group needs to be managed in just the same way as a meeting, with a chairperson, note taker and timekeeper. The strategies and organisational advice included in the step are equally relevant for large groups as for a small meeting between student and teacher.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace, meetings are extremely commonplace and groups are regularly required to reach a shared decision. Some managers may hold or attend meetings as many as six or eight times in a day, particularly if they have a large area of responsibility. Others may simply attend one weekly or monthly meeting: for example, a regular meeting with members of their team.

Discussions which need to conclude in a decision all require the same degree of management,whether it be a small informal grouping - for example, an employee and their manager undertaking a performance review - or a significant and important gathering - for example, national government. Confidence at this step will enable you to apply the same structure and framework to each and every meeting regardless of size or nature.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In the wider world, we often have to attend meetings if we belong to clubs or associations. The people gathering to make shared decisions may not attend regular meetings and may be unfamiliar with decision making. The management of such discussions and the reaching of a shared decision can often require very careful management.

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 the last time you took part in a discussion when a decision had to be made. Was there a chairperson? Did they manage to achieve a shared decision? What skills did the chairperson use to achieve this? If a decision was not achieved can you identify why not?
  • Next time you attend a meeting, pay particular attention to the chairperson. With reference to the contents of this step, make a note of things that you think they did well to control the discussion. What could they have done differently to make the meeting even more successful?
  • Next time you are in a group discussion, note what happens if someone interrupts the discussion. Does the chairperson intervene? Does the discussion continue as before or change direction? Does the person interrupt and change the conversation?

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