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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 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.

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 11, individuals will show that they can listen to two or more different perspectives on an issue and compare them. 

In the previous steps, the focus was on how to demonstrate active listening, and then to be aware of how a speaker might try to influence us as listeners. This step thinks about how to listen critically to different perspectives and to compare them.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What we mean by different perspectives
  • What the value is of diverse views 
  • How to identify the key points individuals are making 
  • How to compare perspectives

Reflection questions

  • What does it mean to have different perspectives?
  • What is the value of looking at multiple perspectives? 
  • How can we identify the core points being made?
  • How can we compare perspectives?

What you need to know

Different perspectives

A perspective is a view of something. That something might be as small as a specific problem, or as substantial as the global economy. 

We have a diversity of opinions on a topic, because we have such diversity of information, insights, lived experience, values, cultural norms and underpinning assumptions about the world. What drives these different perspectives is explored in a lot more depth in Step 12.

A perspective might seem obvious or intuitive to the individual who holds it, but look utterly incomprehensible to someone else.

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The value of different perspectives

Each of us only have an incomplete understanding of anything – even experts in their field or academics spend a lot of time talking to one another to share different perspectives, and to debate and try to reconcile different ideas about how the world works. 

By being open to different perspectives, we are open to:

  • Expanding our knowledge and understanding of the world
  • Recognising and benefiting from the skills and experiences of others
  • Appreciating different values and cultural norms
  • Challenging our unconscious biases and assumptions 

There is plenty of evidence that groups that work to incorporate diverse perspectives into their thinking make better decisions and get further as a result. This is because the human brain does not tend to worry about the limitations of what it knows – it presumes it knows enough and then keeps going. 

It takes an active effort to try to open up to different perspectives, and to wrestle intellectually with the differences that emerge as a result.

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Identifying the key points

Comparing perspectives is not an easy thing to do, particularly when listening. A simple mental model to do this is to take each individual in turn, and when listening try to capture some of this crucial information:

  • What do they think the answer is, or should happen? 
  • What reasons do they give for this perspective?
  • Do they recognise any of the arguments against their perspective?

This process of capturing information is helpful as a starting point, and to help us to process what we are hearing.

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Comparing perspectives

To successfully compare perspectives, though, we need to build up our mental models of the options and how to reconcile what we are hearing. 

As we build up our view of the different perspectives, we are looking to:

  • Identify the range of available options 
  • Capture the arguments for and against each of those options
  • Assess which of the perspectives we have heard are most credible – that is, most likely to be true
  • Evaluate which of the options have the most compelling case, balancing the arguments for and against
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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should introduce the idea that there exist a diverse range of perspectives on any question, and that diversity is valuable because each of us only holds a small part of the answer. 
  • Learners can discuss the value of diverse perspectives. The teacher could illustrate this idea with examples – for instance, highlighting how a decision in the context of school or college, like lengthening the learning day would be seen quite differently by different members of the community. Learners could discuss what some of these different perspectives might be. 
  • The teacher can then model how to reconcile these different views. In this simple example, there are two initial options (to extend the learning day, or not to extend the learning day). Additional options might also be introduced, such as reducing the length of holidays. 
  • The teacher can illustrate how to draw out these three options, add arguments for and against each option in a grid as they are heard, and then use this to help make a choice.
  • Ultimately, the teacher should remind learners that lots of decisions are not clear-cut but are about trade-offs between options, and link to values as much as to outcomes. 

Reinforcing it

This step lends itself well to reinforcement in the classroom. For instance, debate can be a way of deepening learners’ engagement with a topic, and those listening have to decipher what they are hearing and decide what they think at the end, having reflected on a variety of options and views. 

This step is also useful when learners are listening to different perspectives in other areas of learning.  This sort of comparison is often an essential part of learning at a more advanced level. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through a structured activity where learners have to listen to a range of perspectives on a problem or question. They should demonstrate that they can capture critical information, and then organise it in a simple model to compare the options and reach a justified view of their own, based on what they hear.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work

This step is relevant where individuals have to make decisions which involve understanding and evaluating different perspectives. 

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

  • Discuss the idea that a diverse range of perspectives exists on any question, and that there is value in that diversity because each of us only holds a small part of the answer. The manager might lead a discussion using an example to support this point – for instance, highlighting the different perspectives on taking industrial action as a way of settling a dispute at work. 
  • Model how to compare perspectives in a structured way, perhaps using a grid to capture the arguments put forward by each of these perspectives to show an approach to building up a view of different perspectives.
  • Task an individual to listen to colleagues, with different perspectives, debate a topic. The individual can be tasked to capture key information, and then organise it in a simple model to compare the options and reach a justified view of their own, based on what they hear.
  • Reflect with the individual about ways they could source a range of perspectives on an issue.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During meetings when there is a need to reconcile different perspectives on an issue so as to decide a best course of action.
  • Working with customers or clients: When listening to understand how an issue might affect a customer or client. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed by observing an individual during meetings when the merits of an idea or plan are being discussed. 

  • An individual can be observed and evidence of them listening to a range of perspectives on a problem or question might be identified - such as individual making structured notes to capture the perspectives exchanged. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual as they take part in an assessed exercise which requires them to listen to a range of perspectives on a problem or question and then present these in a structured way to a third party. An observer can look for evidence that shows an awareness of the different perspectives which have been spoken about.
  • An individual might demonstrate this through their answers to questions put to them about the different perspectives they’ve heard.

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

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

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