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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 11, individuals will show that they can build productive relationships beyond their immediate team. 

In earlier steps, the focus was on how to improve the team by avoiding or resolving unhelpful conflicts. This step is about being able to widen the range of external relationships that the team can benefit from.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • Why are relationships beyond the team important
  • What external relationships might be based around 
  • How new relationships can be started 
  • How to maintain and develop relationships

Reflection questions

  • Why is it helpful to have relationships beyond your immediate team?
  • What might be valuable about these relationships? What could they do?
  • How can you start new relationships?
  • How can you build them?
  • How can you maintain those relationships over time?
  • Have you had any experiences of building relationships like these?

What you need to know

Relationships beyond the team

In organisations, it can become too easy just to focus on how we work with those who are around and to become focused internally. It is vital to have good working relationships with others in the team, for all the reasons that we have explored in the steps up to here.

However, it can also become limiting to only take this internal perspective. All teams and organisations exist in a much wider sector of people who are potential partners, customers, clients, suppliers, or competitors. At more advanced steps of Teamwork, it is essential to start to engage with this wider array of external stakeholders.

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The focus of external relationships

Broadly, external relationships might be based around:

(a) Sharing information and learning 

  • Sharing information and learning as peers.
  • Mentoring or coaching someone outside of the organisation (see Leadership Step 10 and Step 11).
  • Being mentored or coached by someone outside of the organisation.

(b) Supplier and customer relationships 

  • Supplying a good or service to the other party.
  • Receiving a good or service from the other party. 

(c) Partnership working

  • Working together as partners on a joint project or endeavour.
  • Engaging stakeholders who have an in interest in a project – for instance, local community members who are affected by a project. 

You are less likely to have good relationships with your competitors (indeed, in some areas of commerce such relationships could be illegal) but you might end up developing one of the other ways of working above.

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How new relationships can be started

New relationships can be started in a range of different ways. This might include:

  • Networking: There are a range of networking events where it is possible to build new professional relationships. Sometimes, these events are explicitly designed for meeting new professional contacts who you might end up working with, like speed networking events. Other times, the event is nominally about a launch, celebration or a conference – although you might learn something interesting at these events, many participants will see these chiefly as networking opportunities. 
  • Introductions: Sometimes, an existing partner or stakeholder will make an introduction to a new contact. This might be in-person or by email. This can be helpful as it builds trust and credibility from the outset. 
  • Research: Another approach is to research the field that you are looking for. You might be able to find individuals who are offering to act as mentors, or who are professional coaches, for example. In other places, you might identify individuals who have similar professional interests to you.
  • Cold approaches: Finally, a cold approach might be necessary if you have no way to meet the person for real, or have the possibility of an introduction through a mutual contact. In this case, a short introductory email or call, explaining who you are, and why you would be interested in talking to them is the best start.
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How to develop relationships

Once a relationship has started, it needs to be deepened and reinforced if it is to be helpful. Some of the key steps to achieving this are:

  • Getting to know one another: Most relationships benefit from meeting in person, getting to know one another informally over a coffee or similar. This includes both what they are working on, and a bit about them as a person too. This is essential to answer the question of whether you like each other enough to have the possibility of working together. 
  • Understanding one another’s goals and priorities: It is important to understand what each other might be looking to get out of working together too. At this stage, it is vital to do a lot of listening so that you can understand their position.  
  • Exploring avenues for shared interests and areas of learning or working together: As you explore a professional relationship, it would be helpful to hone down the number of possible priorities that you might be able to work on together. This should not be a forced exercise – if there is no overlap that is fine, but it is probably not worth pursuing the relationship further. 
  • Starting with small projects, so that there are tangible rewards to working together: By this stage, you should have a sense of whether you could work together and the focus, but the real test is whether you can undertake a short project together successfully. This should be something low-stakes so you can work out whether the arrangement works for you both. 
  • Building trust and understanding over time towards bigger projects: If the small project is a success, this can build confidence that more ambitious things will be possible over time.
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How to maintain relationships

Not every professional relationship is meant to last forever. Sometimes, the relationship is about getting something done, and so when that has been achieved, that is a natural end. 

However, many professional relationships can develop over time, from being transactional to a much greater alignment and deeper partnership. To reach this deeper level of partnership, there are certain fundamentals:

  • Mutual respect between the partners.
  • Trust that the other partner is reliable and will do anything that they promised.
  • Shared goals where there are aligned interests and both are benefiting. 
  • Commitment to continuing to work together. 

Most external relationships are not bound together by obligation, in the way that team relationships sometimes are. This means that it is particularly important to maintain consistency and transparency in external relationships if they are to be maintained.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should start by reminding learners that although most of the focus in Teamwork so far has been on how to build relationships within the team, there are lots of ways that other relationships can be important too.
  • Learners could reflect on when external relationships are helpful and how they could help. They could share examples they have had, and what they got out of them.
  • The teacher can then talk learners through the stages of starting and then developing a new professional relationship. At each stage, learners can work in groups to develop ideas about what they should do at that stage to ensure success.
  • Again, discussing examples and experiences is likely to be invaluable here for bringing the concepts in this step to life. 
  • Finally, learners could think about where they might be able to get value from an external relationship, obviously carefully guided by the teacher as to what might be appropriate. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced if there are mentoring or coaching opportunities available to learners, or where they might need to seek external advice or help – for example, on college or university applications, social action projects, or parts of their studies. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observing and reflecting with learners on how they have developed a professional relationship, and the steps that they went through to start that partnership, to develop it, and then to sustain it over time. If observation isn’t possible, then a written reflection might be enough.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This skill step is relevant to individuals who have to build relationships beyond the organisation. 

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

  • Discuss with the individual why it is important to have external relationships. Here a manager can stress the importance of expanding our view past the internal perspective of the team.
  • Explain the process of building relationships outside the team to show an individual how this can be achieved. Here a manager can create a process map which features three parts: starting relationships, developing relationships, maintaining relationships. A manager can present map an individual, walking them through each stage of the process. At various points the manager can annotate the diagram with ideas, taken from the section above, to show how each part can create the effect of building a relationship outside the existing team. 
  • Reflect with the individual on the value of any external relationships they might have already. Through this reflection a manager and individual might consider the purpose of these external relationships. This might reveal a new insight on where they should be directing their efforts when it comes to developing new ones.
  • Task the individual to apply the guidance on the process map to the exercise of developing new external relationships, informed by thinking on where there might be new value. 

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When the team is in a position which makes it possible for them to receive external ideas or input, to improve their performance.
  • Working with customers or clients: When there is an opportunity to develop a customer relationship into a partnership, with an emphasis on identifying who else might be useful to involve in the partnership.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through observation and questioning.

For instance:

  • A manager can use a check in with the individual to find out if they know where to look for a new external relationship
  • A manager can observe an individual as they go about a process to develop new external relationships. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual demonstrating they can start, develop and sustain new relationships over time

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Questioning the individual during an interview to check they understand the value of relationships beyond the immediate team. Here the hiring manager might check an individual can identify the focus of different external relationships by asking the individual to explain what relationships they might seek to develop if they were hired and why.

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, we tend to form groups or teams within our classes or circles of friendship. It can be easier and habit forming to work with people most familiar to us. This has the potential to reduce the different perspectives within a team and can narrow the range of experience and skills of the members. On occasion, the team task or activity may call for skills, knowledge or experience beyond that of the group and the ability to refer to people outside the immediate team will be beneficial.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace, we would be very lucky if our team encompassed all the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to achieve a successful outcome on each and every occasion. By building relationships outside the immediate team, through networking with other departments and with people outside the organisation the team gains access to a greater wealth of knowledge and support. This can help the team to make more informed and better decisions. This in turn will help the business or organisation to achieve its goals more effectively.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In the wider world a team is usually created from people with a similar interest in a subject, or activity, for example a horticultural group, sports team, charity volunteers. As a consequence your team is likely to comprise individuals with similar skills or experience. If your team is required to make a decision or do something which is unfamiliar or challenging you might benefit from drawing on the support of others. If you have built relationships outside the team then there are people who may be able to offer advice or provide information to the team and allow you to make better, more informed decisions.

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!

  • Review Leadership Step 10 and Step 11 to ensure you have understood and mastered the concepts of mentoring and coaching.
  • Select a group or team that you are a member of. For each person within the team, list what you believe to be their strengths and weaknesses. Are there similarities within your team? Are there any unique skills specific to one person? Do you think your team would benefit from any help or support from someone outside your team?
  • How extended is your network? Outside your relationships with friends and family, who else do you have in your network that you could ask for information or support? How could you build your network?
  • Consider something that you plan to do in the near future and that you may benefit from additional help, support or advice. Identify someone who may be able to help you with this situation, by having a conversation, providing some advice or even a piece of information, and make contact with them to initiate a meeting or chat.

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