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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 1, individuals will show they understand what appropriate behaviour looks like in different settings and act in that way. 

In the previous step, individuals showed that they could work positively with other people. This step builds on this by focusing on what appropriate behaviour looks like in different places.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What behaviour means
  • Behaviour which will never be appropriate 
  • How appropriate behaviour might vary

Reflection questions

  • What do you think appropriate behaviour means?
  • Is appropriate behaviour the same in every setting?
  • How can we know what appropriate behaviour looks like in different places?
  • Can you give some examples of what behaviour is appropriate in different settings?

What you need to know

What behaviour means

Behaviour is how we act or what we do in different situations, particularly towards other people. When we talk about appropriate behaviour, it means that we are acting correctly for the situation. 

Behaviour includes things like:

  • How we talk to other people – like being polite, friendly and helpful. 
  • What we talk about – the topics that we cover.
  • How we dress – whether there is a uniform or dress code.
  • The attitude we have towards what we are doing – including being on time and working hard.
  • The values we demonstrate – like honesty, kindness, courageousness and many others.
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Behaviour which is never appropriate

There is some behaviour which is never appropriate:

  • Bullying someone. 
  • Harassing or annoying someone. 
  • Causing other people upset or distress. 
  • Offending someone. 
  • Breaking the law or persuading someone else to. 
  • Putting ourselves or others in danger.
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How appropriate behaviour varies

Beyond those behaviours which are never appropriate, there are some behaviours which might be fine in some settings which are not acceptable in others. As some examples:

  • We might dress differently in work or attending school or college to how we might dress with our friends or when taking part in sports activities. Some workplaces have uniforms you are expected to wear, and others might have a broader range of acceptable clothes.
  • What we talk about might vary in different settings. With friends or family, you might be able to talk about anything and express your opinions freely and heartily. In school or a workplace, you have to be more careful to avoid upsetting or offending people. There might also be humour that you could share with friends you know well that you wouldn’t share with other people. 
  • How we talk to people is likely to be different too. With friends, we are probably relaxed in our language but might use slang or other words that we use. In work or school, we might think more carefully about being polite.
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Working out what is acceptable

Working out what is appropriate in new settings can take a little bit of time, and it is always worth starting carefully and relaxing a little bit more if you see that is acceptable later on.

In the end, the acceptable behaviours are all down to the values of where you are, and what is considered ‘normal’ there.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can ask learners to think about what the word behaviour means to them. Younger learners are likely to immediately link this to “being well-behaved” which is undoubtedly part of it, but not the whole picture so do encourage them to think about what this looks like.
  • Next learners should explore the idea of what behaviours are never acceptable. 
  • They are likely to start by thinking about the school rules – this is a helpful example, but the teacher could challenge them on whether these same rules would apply in their homes? 
  • This can open up the conversation to how different behaviours may be appropriate in different places. Learners can identify how they behave differently in different settings.

Reinforcing it

This step lends itself well to being reinforced in the classroom, as a set of norms of behaviour. The teacher can also make the contrast between appropriate behaviour at break time and during learning time to help learners recognise the differences. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through sustained observation of behaviour, particularly if learners are able to identify and follow norms of behaviour in different settings.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work:

This skill step is relevant to everybody in the workplace as appropriate behaviour is a basic expectation.

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

  • Explain to an individual what behaviours are unacceptable and why. During this explanation, the manager might reflect with the individual on the consequences of these behaviours. 
  • Discuss with an individual how appropriate behaviours can vary depending on the setting or context. To support this a manager might model two different scenarios for the individual to think about how they would behave in: a client meeting and a leaving do for a member of staff. 
  • Task the individual to create a ‘code of conduct’ which new joiners can use to help them behave in an appropriate way in various situations. This can help the individual to reflect on which behaviours are appropriate and inappropriate in the workplace. 

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During all of our interactions at work, with an emphasis on exercising behaviour that is appropriate for the setting and meeting expectations for dress code and the like. 
  • Working with customers or clients: At all times when we are communicating or interacting with customers and clients.

Reviewing it:

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

  • A manager can have a conversation with an individual to check they first understand what appropriate behaviour at work is. This can include questioning to ensure a clear understanding of norms and expectations for that setting. 
  • A manager can then observe the individual in various settings to check they can exercise appropriate behaviours at work. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Reviewing the individual’s performance after they complete an exercise which is about them recognising instances of acceptable behaviour in the workplace. This exercise could be a test in during which an individual should review and correctly identify examples of unacceptable behaviours in the workplace. This might come in the form of prepared media clips.
  • This can be complemented by observing whether they have demonstrated the ability to behave appropriately throughout the interview and recruitment 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, we spend the majority of our day with other people either in a learning situation or socialising. When working in a group to complete a task or share an activity, we need to be able to behave appropriately towards others. There will be expectations which might include how we speak to one another, what are appropriate things to talk about, how we dress and the rules that we are expected to follow. Understanding and following these expectations will help to work effectively with others.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

When we are at work we need to demonstrate the ‘normal’ behaviour expected at our particular place of work, but different workplace settings are likely to have a different ‘normal’. A lawyer or accountant may be expected to dress very differently to a shop assistant or hairdresser. In the same way, the informal style of speaking that a barber may use will be different to the language used by lawyers in a courtroom. However, our personal values, for example good timekeeping and a positive attitude, are likely to be the same wherever we work.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

To successfully spend time with other people, whether close friends or strangers,it is important that we always treat another individual appropriately. Whether we are taking part in a formal or informal activity, there are behaviours towards others discussed in this step that will always be unacceptable and may cause conflict and upset for others. It is important that we can learn and recognise what is appropriate and acceptable in every setting.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Teamwork, 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!

  • Draw up a set of rules for appropriate behaviour towards others in your school, college, or workplace. Review these rules and identify which rules would also be appropriate in the home. What about in the wider world?
  • List five personal rules that you think you follow each day in your normal everyday life. Are there any others that you think you should follow?
  • Have you had someone behave inappropriately towards you, perhaps in the way they spoke to you or what they spoke to you about? How did this make you feel. Did you say anything to the speaker to let them know how you felt?
  • Think of a job you might like to do in the future and another job that does not interest you at all. Write a list of the dress code, language and behaviour that might be expected for each job. Are there any similarities? Differences?

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