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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 12, individuals will have to show that they can think about where differences in perspectives might come from.

In the previous step, the focus was on recognising and comparing different standpoints. This step builds on this by encouraging individuals to think more deeply about where diverse views come from, the better build empathy and understanding.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • Where different perspectives come from 
  • The value in recognising what underpins differences in views 
  • How to analyse a perspective

Reflection questions

  • What causes us to have different perspectives?
  • Why is it helpful to understand where perspectives come from?
  • What are the challenges in being able to do this? 
  • How can we start to understand those perspectives?

What you need to know

Where different perspectives come from

We all have different perspectives on life. It’s easy to forget that our view of the world is uniquely ours. Several layers forge that view:

  • Firstly, our knowledge, experiences, and skills. These can vary by what education and life experience we have had.
  • Secondly, we would also recognise that we have different interests – things that we are affected by day-to-day. For instance, a business owner and a worker might have different interests, as the business owner might want to maximise their profits, while a worker wants to get a good salary and work safely. 
  • Thirdly, we have different beliefs and values – which might be religious or not – about how we should act and behave in the world. These are the things that we view as making up good behaviour. 
  • Finally, we also have an underpinning set of assumptions about the world, which might not even be conscious to us. For example, the relationship between humans and the earth, the nature of time, or what happens beyond death.

With all of these different layers, what we see as the world is simply our view of it – and so it is no wonder that we have different perspectives.

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The value of understanding where perspectives come from

When we share our views on something, we are only sharing the very top level of this thinking. We are most likely to talk about how our perspective is informed by what we know, what we understand and our experiences. This is often the most comfortable level to talk about – these things are harder to dispute, and they are also impersonal, so people feel most comfortable sharing them.

Sometimes individuals might talk about how their interests differ from others. This is less comfortable because it highlights individual self-interest and we often want to project that we are taking a perspective for objective reasons, rather than for our advantage. 

It is even less likely that the conversation will come to beliefs and values, unless these are commonly shared. That is because individuals sometimes find it hard to identify the drivers of their own ‘gut reaction’ to something. At other times, if their beliefs and values differ from others, they might feel uncomfortable to set themselves apart as different. 

When it comes to underpinning assumptions, these are very rarely shared because they are often unconscious to the individual themselves. 

For all of these reasons, it is essential to remember that sometimes the perspective and the rationale that we hear on something is only the very tip of the iceberg. There is likely to be a lot more than underpins a particular opinion that we might not see – but is still helpful to understand.

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Analysing different perspectives

As humans, we often struggle to understand fully where our view on something comes from. We simply don’t have the brainpower to be able to unpack consciously everything that underpins our view of the world. 

It is at least as challenging to analyse that for someone else, when we only ever have imperfect information about them. Therefore, we need to move carefully and modestly when we try to understand what is unspoken in someone’s perspective.

In Step 13 and Step 14, we look at how to identify bias when listening, and how to use questioning to better understand different perspectives. For now, a good approach is to think about several layers when we hear individuals giving different perspectives:

  • What other reasons might they hold this perspective?
  • What skills, experience or knowledge might they have?
  • What are their interests – how will they personally win or lose depending on this decision?
  • How might their beliefs or values be part of their perspective? 

Asking these questions will help to widen our understanding of the issue and avoid just taking the views we hear at face value.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should start by asking learners why they think people have different views of things. This can be extended to a structured conversation about the layers from the explicit reasons people give for their opinions to the more implicit.
  • Learners could think about a topical issue that they have a strong view on, and analyse for themselves where they believe this view came from. Encourage them to peel back the layers of their views one at a time to try to uncover the interests that drive their perspective, and then the underpinning beliefs or values. These could be shared as a group, if appropriate.
  • The teacher can lead a discussion of why it is helpful to be able to understand what underpins the different views that individuals present, but also the limitations of being able to gauge these accurately.
  • Learners could be challenged to look at a topical issue – for instance, by seeing different politicians’ perspectives on a current issue. They could be asked to think about what might be underpinning that particular view. 
  • After they have shared their analysis, the teacher should remind learners that they will never know for sure why those perspectives come about, and they should avoid assuming too much. However, there is still value in trying to deepen their thinking beyond the view as it is presented. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced effectively by encouraging learners to take a more critical approach to how they take in information and assess different perspectives. When they read differing accounts or opinion pieces, they can be challenged to analyse what they see as causing those differences.

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through a structured analysis task, either based around something that is topical in current affairs or related to their wider subject learning. Learners can be asked to either discuss or write about a comparison of perspectives, and their analysis of where those different perspectives come from. The teacher is looking for evidence of the learner identifying and exploring some of the layers above.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to individuals who use their listening skills to understand different perspectives on a complex issue and make decisions about what to do next. 

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

  • Explain to an individual why it can be valuable to find out what someone’s perspective is. A manager might make this learning concrete by explaining how this understanding can help them to perform an aspect of their job better. 
  • Model how to identify where different perspectives come from, using the questions above.
  • Task an individual to take part in an exercise with other colleagues to discuss a topic affecting their work. They could be asked to think about what might be underpinning the different perspectives individuals present. 
  • Reflect with an individual about the limitations of being able to accurately gauge where an individual’s perspective is coming from.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During meetings when listening to a range of views on the best course of action to take in response to respond to a situation or issue.
  • Working with customers or clients: When preparing a proposal for a customer or client. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through questioning. For instance:

  • An individual might be asked to describe why they think a colleague or a customer has a different perspective or view on an issue. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual as they complete a structured analysis task, where they are required to identify the reasons behind a perspective. The individual might be tasked to write down the questions they might ask to uncover this perspective. These can be checked for understanding. 
  • Alternatively, this could be uncovered in a reflection after a group task where individuals present different perspectives.

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