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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 15, individuals will show that they can articulate a compelling vision that persuades listeners.  

This is the final step of Speaking, and draws on the ideas of influence explored in Steps 13 and 14. This step builds on those further by looking at how a compelling vision can also be an effective way of speaking influentially.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What a vision is 
  • What a vision needs to include
  • How to communicate your vision

Reflection questions

  • What do we mean by a vision? 
  • Why can a vision be a powerful part of communication?
  • What do your listeners need to know about your vision?
  • How can you persuade them to support you?

What you need to know

What is a vision?

A vision is a clear mental view of something that is going to happen in the future. This is closely linked to Creativity, as it is imagining something that has not happened or that does not exist yet.

Many organisations, particularly in the not-for-profit sector, have vision statements which outline what it is that they are working towards, or want to achieve: For example, the end of poverty, deaths from a particular disease, or inequality of opportunities. 

A compelling vision helps to illustrate what success looks like, and provides clarity about what the ultimate goal.

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What a vision needs to include

In the previous steps, we talked about influence as the creation of a shared story or narrative between yourself and your listeners. We have already explored how to take the listener on a journey to agreeing with you, and willing to support you. 

A vision is about bringing a goal to life in a vivid way to influence others to help you to achieve it. Ideally, it would be able to be summarised in a single sentence. For instance, the vision of the Skills Builder Partnership is to ensure that one day, everyone builds the essential skills to succeed. 

As you speak about your vision more, there is certain content that needs to be covered:

  • What is the goal that you are working towards?
  • What is the problem that will be solved?
  • How will the world be better as a result?
  • Why is your vision credible? What is the evidence that it is possible?
  • What will the benefit be to the people who are listening?
  • What do you need your listeners to do?
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Communicating your vision

To make a vision a compelling one, it has to cover all of the key points above, but then it needs to go further than that, by painting a mental picture, and also:

  • Building trust, by building up your credibility and demonstrating your empathy with the problem and why you are invested in your vision. 
  • Getting an emotional response, by using stories, real examples and expressing your own emotional response to the challenge or problem. You can also build off that to demonstrate your enthusiasm and excitement about your vision, and how the world would be different if it could be achieved.
  • Using facts and logic to show that what you are proposing is achievable and that your vision is credible.
  • Moving to action, by showing what you are already doing to bring this vision about, and what the listeners should do to support you.

Effectively communicating your vision draws on all the other steps of this skill. If you can do all of this, then you have mastered Speaking.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should start by ensuring that there is a shared definition and understanding of what is meant by articulating a compelling vision in this setting. Learners could be asked whether they know any other vision statements of organisations, as further examples. 
  • Learners could choose one of these vision statements, or create their own for addressing a social or environmental issue of their choosing (or related to their wider studies). They should try to think about how they could answer the questions to create the content that sits around their vision statement. 
  • They can then craft a speech which includes how they can build trust, get an emotional response, use facts and logic and then move to action. 
  • Learners can deliver these speeches, reflect on how effective they were, and get feedback from the audience, if appropriate. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced where learners are working on something that is a social or environmental problem, or which is related to youth social action. Opportunities like assemblies can be excellent forums for trying out persuasive techniques within a school environment, and there are also competitive debating opportunities which can be a powerful route to practising these too. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through an observed speech which can be used to see whether learners can create and articulate a compelling vision, which motivates their listeners to do something as a result. This is an advanced step, and learners who can do this have achieved highly.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step will be relevant to those who have to convince others to take a course of action. 

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

  • Explain what a vision is and what it should contain. A manager might make this point by comparing examples of a vision with other forms of communication to teach an individual what the key characteristics of a vision are.
  • Model how to communicate a vision using the stated company vision or perhaps their own personal vision an example. 
  • Task an individual to create their own vision for an aspect of their work. This exercise could lead to the individual to craft a speech which should build trust, get an emotional response, use facts and logic and then move to action. 
  • Reflect with the individual about how effective their speech was using feedback from the audience if appropriate.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: when talking to other colleagues to explain your ideas about the problems to be solved and the vision of where you could get to.
  • Working with customers or clients: During presentations or meetings which are about generating customer or client ‘buy-in’ to a solution, idea or proposal.  

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through observation and discussion. For instance:

  • Observing over time whether an individual is able to craft a clear vision for their area of responsibility and engage and excite others about that work. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Reviewing an applicant’s work history to identify examples of the individual achieving a feat which will have required their articulation of a compelling vision which inspired clear actions.
  • This step can be further assessed by questioning an individual at interview to describe a time when they have articulated a compelling vision which has motivated action. An individual’s response might be reviewed for evidence which suggests an awareness of what a vision is and their ability to articulate one that is compelling.

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 school or college, there can be a ready audience for the creation of a compelling vision, particularly when talking about social issues or issues which affect the youth of our country. Students can be active listeners and give particularly emotional responses to subjects which will affect them. Assemblies and extra-curricular groups can be excellent forums for utilising your mastery at this step.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Senior managers and business leaders are required to create the vision for their organisation. The strategy and direction for their future is likely to be documented in their mission statement and aims and objectives. However, the ability to speak to others about the vision, to energise and motivate the employees or investors is a more advanced and extremely beneficial skill to possess, particularly if you are seeking career development and keen to make progress in your organisation.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In the wider world you may become involved in local politics, charity work or social and environmental groups. In such groups, the ability to communicate a vision, to take the listeners on a journey to a bright and successful future is a very powerful skill. The ability to create a compelling vision, use examples and facts, and read and respond to the reactions of the audience, is the ultimate conclusion of being a good speaker.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Speaking, 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!

  • Watch a powerful speech on the internet, for example, Martin Luther King, ‘I have a dream…’, or Churchill’s, ‘We shall fight them on the beaches…’ Identify the language used to create the vision. Did you find the speech engaging? Watch the speech several times and try to identify how the speaker created such a compelling vision.
  • Prepare a talk on a topic you feel strongly about, for example, local youth issues, environmental issues, or a political issue. Record your talk. Review your talk and identify areas for improvement. Give the talk to a supportive friend or family member, and ask for their feedback. Ask them specific questions about your use of facts, figures, examples and how you responded to their reactions.
  • Take any opportunity or volunteer to give a visionary talk. If necessary, create a situation where such a talk may be effective and make it happen.

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