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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 be able to use their knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of others in the team to allocate roles effectively. 

In the previous step, individuals showed that they were able to appraise the strengths and weaknesses of members of their team. This step builds on this by looking at how to use these insights to allocate roles effectively.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to understand roles
  • How to identify the needs in a role 
  • How to allocate roles by thinking about strengths

Reflection questions

  • What do we mean by roles? 
  • How can we understand what we need from people carrying out particular roles? 
  • How do we match strengths and role requirements?
  • What can we do if there are still gaps?
  • Have you had the experience of having to allocate roles in this way?

What you need to know

Understanding roles

A role describes what someone will do in a particular situation. When we think about jobs and tasks, a role describes what that person will do.

When individuals are employed, they have to be given a clear job description which explains what they should do, and what their responsibilities. 

A role might be a whole job, or it might be a smaller part of it. For example, when working with a team, we might be asked to take on various different roles, or to take on different roles at different times. This does not mean that it is our entire role forever.

A leader has to decide how to allocate different roles so that the tasks get done. Making the decision about who is best-placed to take on these different roles is an important one.

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Identifying the needs in a role

When companies or organisations look to recruit people to join them, they will usually put together a pack of information that includes:

  • What job the person will do: This includes the title of their job, what they will be expected to do day-to-day, and what or who they will be responsible for.
  • The skills that will be needed: The job pack will generally explain what skills the employer is looking for in the job, and at what level. This will include basic skills, essential skills, and technical skills (see Step 8).
  • The knowledge or qualifications that will be needed: The job pack will say if particular qualifications or certificates are needed, or if the applicant needs to know about any sector or technical area.
  • The required experience: Lots of job packs will say that they expect a certain level of experience in a particular industry or type of role. They often put this as a number of years. 
  • The behaviours needed: Lots of job packs will also talk about the character of the individuals they are looking for – for example, reliable, committed, enthusiastic, honest, and more. 

Lots of employers put a lot of time and effort into thinking about new roles, and this is why they are a good model.

If we are just allocating smaller roles to complete projects or tasks, a leader is unlikely to put all that time into thinking about exactly what they need – but they should think about the main things those different roles need.

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Allocating roles

Once you have a clear view of the strengths and weaknesses of your team in the broad areas that we have discussed, and the needs you have for a role you can match up who is best for the different roles. You want as many of the needs for the role to be filled as possible by the strengths of the team member.

If you can’t fill every need, then you should think about whether a need is:

  • essential - that means, the role cannot be completed without it - or whether it is 
  • desirable – it would help if the individual had this, but it is not essential

You can then prioritise making sure you fulfil all of the essential elements. If you can do this, you should think about some of the earlier ideas about sharing out tasks and make sure that they are fair (see Leadership Step 3).

At the end of this exercise, you might find that there are things you need from your team that you haven’t been able to match perfectly. This is where mentorship and coaching are critical, and these are explored in the next two steps.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should start by revising the key areas that individuals might have as strengths or weaknesses from Step 8: knowledge; relationships; character; and skills. 
  • Learners could be shown (or find) some example job packs to explore how employers share what they need applicants to know, how they behave and what they can do. 
  • Learners can then apply this to creating a role description for a task that they imagine or are given. For example, for someone who was going to be a prefect in the school, or who would support them with their learning.
  • They could then be given some artificial profiles of individuals and think how to allocate them to different roles based on an assessment of the needs to the role and the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced if learners are given an extended collaborative project where there will be lots of opportunities for them to think about the different roles that need to be completed and allocated. 

This exercise can also be used by reflecting on individuals that learners come across in their wider studies – for example, in geography, history or literature. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through a structured activity where learners have to make an assessment of characters’ strengths and weaknesses based on profiles they are given, and then allocate roles accordingly. A reflective discussion can help uncover learners’ thinking through this process.

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 are in a leadership position to allocate roles. 

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

  • Model a process of identifying the needs of a role and allocating an individual to it. The manager could draw on existing job opportunities and talk through the type of candidate who would be an ideal fit for those roles, and why. The demonstration can show how to consider an individual’s strengths and weaknesses when allocating them to a role.
  • Task an individual on a training exercise that is about allocating individuals to different roles based on: an assessment of the needs to the role; and the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals.
  • Reflect with the individual to explore how team roles might change over time. Here the manager might encourage the individual to reflect on how they can apply some of the concepts above to increase the chance of team success.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: At the start of a project when structuring work to increase the chance of success, with a focus on allocating the right individual to the right role. 
  • Working with customers or clients: When you need help with delivering what a customer or client needs, with a focus on allocating this job to the right person. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through observing the individual as they take part in a training exercise and have a reflective conversation with a manager at the end. 

  • Observing an individual as they take part in an assessed exercise. This exercise could task the individual to develop a job description to fulfil which captures the needs of a role.
  • A manager can then use this to have a reflective conversation with the individual about who they would allocate to this role. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual differentiating between essential and desirable needs and showing they can identify well suited candidates based on an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual as they take part in a training exercise. During this training exercise, the individual could be tasked to make an assessment of characters’ strengths and weaknesses based on profiles they are given, and then allocate roles accordingly. After the activity, a manager could have a discussion with the individual to explore their thought process.

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, there are roles allocated to learners which may be for a short period of time: for example, preparing the script for an assembly, or meeting with senior staff to gain permission for an activity. In these cases, a group is likely to select the person with the most appropriate skills: someone good at creative writing, or someone who is respectful, organised and speaks with confidence. In such situations, we are likely to make a quick decision based on what we already know about someone.

However, roles may be allocated for the whole of the academic year, for example, prefect and student leadership roles, subject representatives or club responsibilities. In such situations, there is likely to be a more rigorous identification by the team of the skills and attributes of individuals and the roles allocated accordingly.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In a workplace department, individuals will have different strengths and weaknesses, this is likely to be the case even if a department has a single function and comprises similar roles. For a department to function most effectively and efficiently, we need to allocate a role to the most appropriate person, if not, the department’s productivity is likely to be reduced.

To recruit a new person to a specific role within the team, it is likely that a job description will be prepared, stating the skills and attributes that are essential and those that are less important. An individual applying for the role will then be assessed to ensure their strengths and weaknesses match the requirements. An ability to assess the strengths and weaknesses of colleagues and match to the requirements of a role is absolutely essential if you are to be an effective leader in the workplace.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

Socially or in our home lives, we have many different tasks which require completion.This may be keeping a track of spend on a holiday, supporting an elderly relative who is ill, or organising a birthday party. In each case, the role is best suited to a person who has the skills or attributes required of each role. Confidence at this step of leadership, will enable you to assess the skills and weaknesses of others in your family or social circle and make suggestions as to who might be the most appropriate person to complete each task.

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!

  • Create a description for a leadership role in school, college or university. Think carefully about the skills and attributes required for the role.
  • On the internet, search for a job description for a role you find interesting. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of two colleagues, friends or family members and their appropriateness for the role. Which person is most suitable for the role? Why?
  • Consider an activity or event your friends or family may undertake, for example, a celebratory party, camping trip or redesigning a garden. List the tasks or roles required to complete the project. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of each person likely to be involved in the project and assign each role or task to the most appropriate person. Record the reasons for each choice.

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