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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 8, individuals will show that they can identify the strengths and weaknesses of others in their team. 

In the previous step, individuals showed they could reflect on their strengths and weaknesses as a leader. In this step, a similar approach is taken, but extended to thinking about others in the broader team.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What might be areas of strength or weakness for your team
  • Different types of skills
  • How can you identify these

Reflection questions

  • What are some of the areas that you might think about when it comes to strengths and weaknesses? 
  • What sort of skills might you need to look for? 
  • How can you identify strengths and weaknesses in others?
  • Do you have examples of where you have done this?

What you need to know

Areas of strength or weakness for your team

In the previous step, we talked about the importance of thinking about your leadership strengths and weaknesses in a broad and balanced way. It is exactly the same attitude that you need to take to think about the strengths and weaknesses of your team. 

No one is great at everything, and no one is terrible at everything. People are often great in some situations, and not in others.

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How to think about your team's strengths and weaknesses

A balanced approach to thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of your team members might include these four areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding: The expertise and experiences that individuals have, which might consist of formal qualifications, or years of doing something similar. 
  • Relationships: The people that they know, and how positive and trusting those relationships are.  
  • Character strengths: The traits that people have and the choices they make – perhaps including being honest, reliable, careful, enthusiastic, for example.
  • Skills: These are the things that individuals can do. 

Which of these areas you need will depend a lot on the task – this is explored more in Step 9 when we think about how to use this understanding of strengths and weaknesses to help allocate roles in a team.

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Different types of skills

Skills are things that you can do, and we all have lots of them. We can think about three types of skills:

  • Basic or Foundational Skills: Being able to read and write (literacy skills), work with numbers (numeracy skills) and use some technology (digital skills). 
  • Essential Skills: The essential skills that almost everyone needs to some degree to do almost anything – these are the focus of the Skills Builder Framework. 
  • Technical Skills: Skills that are job or role-specific – like plumbing, nursing or accounting qualifications and a lot more.
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Essential skills

With all skills you might have them to different levels. That is why the Skills Builder Framework, for example, is split up into steps that get progressively more difficult and which introduce all the different parts of the skills in turn.

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How to recognise skills and other attributes

There are different ways of recognising the strengths and weaknesses that people have, and this is also explored in Aiming High Step 10

  • Sometimes our interactions with people help us to build up a sense of their skills and how well they can do things like listen, speak, solve problems or work with other people. We can also get a sense of how they behave, make choices, their knowledge and expertise, and how they can build relationships. 
  • We might also observe how people carry out tasks, and we can use this as a way of seeing the strengths they can put into use, and where they appear weaker. This can be done in a real-life situation, or through a simulation. 
  • We might ask other people who have worked with them in different settings to get a fuller picture of their strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Discussions are another way to explore strengths and weaknesses. This is the method used most often by companies when they are recruiting and often asks people for examples or reflections to help build up a picture of an individual.
  • Qualifications or certificates are a final way of identifying skills and knowledge and are particularly crucial for some technical skills where real expertise is involved, or where there is danger if mistakes are made. 

Remember, there is no perfect way of understanding someone’s strengths and weaknesses because they are not always the same, and different situations will draw on them differently.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should ask learners to reflect on how they would think about their individual strengths and weaknesses. This will be a problematic exercise without any structuring because we have strengths and weaknesses in so many different areas of our lives.
  • The teacher can talk through some of the different areas we might consider when getting a view of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, and why some areas might be more important at different times. 
  • Learners can think about some of the different ways of finding out individuals’ strengths and weaknesses and contribute to a class discussion.
  • This could be applied through an activity when learners reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses in different areas, or carry out those reflections based on a choice of character – perhaps from television. 

Reinforcing it

This skill step can be reinforced in the classroom by emphasising the critical message that everyone has strengths that they bring to different situations, and everyone has areas of weakness where they can improve. It can be helpful to encourage learners to articulate improvements they are making, and to recognise when they or others are building skills, knowledge, relationships, or character strengths. 

This could be extended when learning about individuals in history, geography, literature or world events as learners could use this approach to analyse those individuals.  

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through a simulated exercise where learners are asked to appraise the strengths and weaknesses of a character based on the information they are given or what they can research. They should be encouraged to think about each of the four domains when making their appraisal.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to individuals who want to help others make a significant contribution to the team goal, and who are in a leadership role. 

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

  • Explain to an individual that we can think about an individual’s strengths and weaknesses in four broad areas: Knowledge and Understanding; Relationships; Character strengths; and Skills. An individual can use this structure to help them think about the strengths and weaknesses of individual team members.
  • Model a process an individual can follow to uncover strengths and weaknesses in others. To achieve this a manager can produce a diagram of a process with five parts: interactions; observations; feedback; discussions; and qualifications. Taking each part of the process in turn, a manager can demonstrate how each stage of the process can work to uncover an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Task an individual on an exercise which is about learning from others how to recognise skills and weaknesses. Here, a manager can set up a discussion between the individual and a colleague who is experienced at recognising strengths and weaknesses in others.
  • Reflect with the individual about why it is important to identify areas of strength and weaknesses in ourselves and in others. During this reflection, a manager could emphasize the point that everyone has strengths that they bring to bear on different situations and everyone has areas of weakness where they can improve.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When collaborating with others, with a focus on recognising the strengths and weaknesses of those around you. 
  • Working with customers or clients: When you need help to fix a problem a client has shared with you, with a focus on thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of those around you to identify the best person to approach for help.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step can be assessed by having a reflective conversation with an individual and collecting feedback from stakeholders who work with the individual.
For instance:

  • A manager could stage a reflective conversation with the individual to check they can recognise different areas of strengths and weakness in team members.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Questioning an individual during an interview. Here an individual might be tasked to explain what the strengths and weaknesses are of individuals in their current team and how they know this. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual being aware of the different areas of strength and weakness and how they recognised them.

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, you may work in a team with people you know well, for example, people you have been with in school for many years. In other education settings, you may have to work in a group with people less familiar, for example, in a college or university setting. It is essential that you build confidence in strategies to recognise the skills of others, regardless of familiarity. The ability to recognise different types of skills, and someone’s strengths or weakness in each area, will enable you to work equally successfully with both those well known to you and others less familiar.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

A workplace team may be made up of people in your department with whom you work frequently and whose skills, both strengths and weaknesses, are likely to be familiar to you. However, in the workplace, groups are often brought together from different departments, different locations or even different organisations. Confidence in this step of Leadership will enable you to think about your team’s skills and attributes and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In our social and home life, we may have to organise an event or make a decision with others, for example, organise a celebratory party or group trip somewhere. An awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of others will enhance your ability to complete the task successfully.

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!

  • Reflect on the skills of someone you know well – like a colleague, friend or family member – and with reference to each area discussed in this step, knowledge and understanding, relationships, character strengths and skills, identify what you consider to be their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Refer to the Skills Builder Universal Framework and for someone you know quite well, a colleague, friend or family member, assess which step they are at for each of the eight essential skills. Are there any skills you cannot assess? Why do you think this is the case?
  • Select a character from a film, story or television programme. With reference to the four key areas, knowledge and understanding, relationships, character strengths and skills, are you able to identify their skills strengths and weaknesses. For each, record how you have reached this assessment?

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