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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 show that they can reflect on the team’s progress and suggest improvements as a result.

In the previous steps, the focus was on how to work well with others, how to contribute to team decision-making, and then how to improve the team through managing unhelpful conflicts and building external professional relationships. This step focuses on how to influence the team to make it more effective.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to reflect on a team’s progress
  • How to explore team morale and motivation, operational effectiveness, impact effectiveness, and unintended effects
  • How to suggest improvements effectively
  • How to work with the leader

Reflection questions

  • What are some of the things to consider to answer the question of whether your team is making good progress?
  • What is worth considering on team morale and motivation?
  • How can you reflect on operational and impact effectiveness?
  • Why is it important to spot unintended effects?
  • How can you ensure your suggestions are taken well?
  • How can you work with different types of leader?

What you need to know

How to reflect on a team’s progress

There are a few different dimensions that you could consider when reflecting on the progress of a team:

  • Team motivation and morale
  • Operational effectiveness
  • Impact effectiveness 
  • Unanticipated effects
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Team morale and motivation

Morale and motivation are explored further in Leadership Step 12. In essence, motivation is the drive, commitment and energy that a team has to achieve particular goals. This can fluctuate at different times depending on the likelihood of success and the rewards that will be achieved (not just financial) if the task is completed successfully. 

However, there is also a deeper psychological element where individual motivation will also fluctuate according to whether the team feel:

  • Known as individuals, that they are safe in the team, and that they are working on a goal that excites them.
  • They have the resources, tools and training for success.
  • Their successes are recognised, and they are supported through challenges.
  • They have a sense of shared endeavour.

These are all areas where, as a team member, you can help to ensure the continued motivation of other members of your team.

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Operational effectiveness

Sometimes there are operational challenges as you implement a plan. Perhaps you were unable to secure the resources that you need, or tasks were completed incorrectly, or external factors have undermined your efforts.

It is important to recognise these challenges so that you can adapt your plans accordingly – securing additional resources, moving timelines and milestones, or changing some of the tasks you had planned. Reviewing progress regularly against milestones will help you to spot operational challenges early and make changes.

As a team member, you have particular insight into the areas that you are working on directly and improving operations there. You might also be able to reach out to others to support them directly, or find ways around problems.

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Impact effectiveness

At other times, you might experience a challenge around the impact of what you are doing. Perhaps you are delivering the operational plan, but it is not leading to the outcomes that you were expecting.

As a team member, you can support taking learning from the situation. What was it in the original model that was wrong? What were the logical assumptions that did not hold up? Are there hypotheses that were disproved unexpectedly? 

This is likely to be an area which needs a wider team conversation, as it will involve revisiting some of our assumptions, improving them with what we see in reality, and then adjusting our strategic plan accordingly to get back on track for our impact goals.

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Unanticipated effects

It’s important as a team member, to keep scanning for unanticipated secondary effects. This might include talking to those individuals you are working with or looking at broader social and environmental effects of the work that you’re doing. 

Once you have identified a secondary effect, you can analyse why that has happened, and what actions you might need to take as a team to take to mitigate that effect – or whether it means that you need to go back to the drawing board on the whole approach.

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How to suggest improvements effectively

If you can’t enact an improvement yourself, you will have to think carefully about how to deliver the suggestion or the constructive criticism, including:

  • A positive, helpful tone.
  • Identification of what is working well, as well as what can be improved.
  • Considered, reasoned opinions.
  • Explanation of points.
  • A willingness to discuss the critique more widely. 

There is a lot more on how to influence people in Speaking Step 12, Step 13, Step 14 and Step 15.

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Working with the leader: democratic approach

If your team has a clear leader, then the dynamic between you and the leader will be critical if you are going to suggest improvements in a way that will encourage them to be taken on and used. 

You can find out more about different leadership styles in Leadership Step 13, Step 14 and Step 15. Essentially, the style of leadership will affect the openness of the leader to take on board your reflections and make improvements as a result. 

If your leader takes a democratic approach to decision-making, encourages change, and believes in coaching and developing the team, then you are in luck. They are likely to delegate considerable authority, or at least be open to taking on board the ideas of the team, and you are likely to get a positive reception. In a democratic structure, you are likely to need to bring the whole team along with you, so open conversation and debate is likely to be important.

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Working with the leader: autocratic approach

On the other hand, if your leader takes an autocratic approach, prefers stability and consistency to change or takes a transactional approach to their team, then you will find it a lot tougher to get the change to be incorporated. In this case, you probably have a couple of options:

  • To try to enact the ideas without the leader – this might be possible, depending on the size of the team.
  • Get the leader to see the improvement as their suggestion by coaching them towards the idea, although this can be difficult to pull off.
  • Help the leader to see how this improvement will help them to achieve their goals – this is called alignment and is most likely to be successful.
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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should start by introducing the idea that all members of a team have the opportunity and the responsibility to make the team more effective, and to help the team achieve its goals. 
  • The teacher can introduce the four main areas where team members can have a positive influence, and ask learners to work in groups to explain what is meant by each of these: team morale and motivation, operational effectiveness, impact effectiveness, and unintended effects.
  • Learners should then discuss what could be difficult about just telling people to do things differently, and how a team member can think about carefully influencing others (this is covered more in Speaking Step 12, Step 13, Step 14 and Step 15).
  • Finally, the teacher should introduce the challenge of how to work with different leaders. They should share that leaders might be quite different in their styles (see Leadership Step 13, Step 14 and Step 15), and they will have to adapt their approach to influencing the team accordingly.

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced whenever learners are working in a group. The teacher can pause the group and ask learners to think about how their group is working across the four dimensions shared above. Learners can reflect and then make changes.

At a more advanced stage, the teacher can ask them to reflect on this at the end of a task, which will be a better indication of whether they were able to both recognise where improvements could be made, and then actually make them. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through an observation of an extended project or challenge, then coupled with a reflection. It should be clear to the teacher during the observation that the learner is proactive in identifying issues and then trying to influence their team to address them. 

This observation can be complemented by a reflection which is either discussed, presented or written.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work:

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

Reflect with the individual on their previous experiences of working in teams, helping them to become more aware of sources of team improvement. 

  • To achieve this, a manager can start by supporting the individual to recall distinctive experiences of working in teams which underwent an improvement in some way. Taking each instance of teamwork in turn, the manager might ask the individual questions to explore in which dimension the improvements in the team were felt: morale, operational effectiveness, impact effectiveness or addressing unanticipated effects. The manager might support the individual to identify the factors which created this improvement. 
  • A manager might conclude this reflective exercise by making the point that all team members, irrespective of role, have the opportunity and the responsibility to make the team more effective, and to help the team achieve its goals. 

Demonstrate some options an individual can try to influence the team’s progress. To achieve this a manager might model different approaches an individual might try for the situation. A manager might show a diagram which demonstrates when conditions are favourable for different approaches. Approaches might include:

  •      Checking an idea with a manager before sharing it with the team
  •      Sharing an idea with a leader and coaching them to adopt the initiative 
  •      Running with the idea small scale, to see if it works

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During a collaboration when there is the opportunity to think about how the group is working across the four dimensions shared above.
  • Working with customers or clients: When there is an opportunity to work better as a group, to deliver a customer or client benefit.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through observing an individual over time and having reflective conversations with the individual. For instance:

  • In a check-in, a manager could explore what an individual thinks about the role they play when it comes to improving the team. Evidence of this skill step can be found in them recognising they have a part to play in helping the team to make progress.
  • This can be corroborated against the manager’s observations on how an individual offers the team constructive criticism. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Questioning an individual during an interview. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual showing they know what their role would be in supporting the team to make progress. 
  • This assessment could be supported by a review of an individual’s performance in an exercise. This exercise can task the individual to review some unstructured data and information about a team’s stated goals and performance. The individual can then be tasked to structure this information in a way so as to help them identify improvements they would recommend.

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, the focus is on learning. The majority of the teams you area member of will have goals to enhance your learning even further, for example in seminar groups and discussion groups. To ensure your learning is of the highest quality, it is important to ensure that your team is functioning effectively and efficiently. It is therefore beneficial to your learning if you can master this step and communicate your feedback on progress and improvements to the team in a positive and constructive manner.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Every organisation aims to operate as effectively as possible so that productivity can be maximised, whether it be the number of customers served, pupils taught, products made or goods sold. Time spent in your team making decisions and putting plans into action must be used efficiently. If the processes within your team could be improved in any way then it is important to feed this back to the team, however, the manner of communicating your ideas for improvement should be positive and considered.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

Meetings, teamwork and group discussions take time out of your day and in the wider world, time away from school, college or work is precious, it is for relaxing,enjoyment, hobbies and interests. Group activities and discussions therefore need to be efficient, viewed as time well spent. If you think things could be done better, differently or progress could be improved then considered, well managed feedback needs to be given. The team will be grateful if the outcome or process is better for everyone.

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 12 to ensure you have understood and mastered the concepts of morale and motivation within a team. Leadership Step 13, Step 14 and Step 15 will provide more information on leadership styles.
  • Review Speaking Step 12, Step 13, Step 14 and Step 15 to understand more about how to influence people.
  • Reflect on the morale and motivation of a team that you currently belong to. How would you rate the drive, commitment and energy of the team? With the benefit of the teachings of this step, what could you do to improve team morale and motivation? If morale is already high, how has this been achieved?
  • Have you belonged to a team that could not make progress? Review the contents of this step of Teamwork to identify any operational challenges that existed. Were additional resources secured, plans adapted, milestones changed or the tasks revised? Was the lack of progress managed successfully? If not, what do you now think could have been done to improve the situation?

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