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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 14, individuals will show that they can identify the strengths and weaknesses of others in the team and support them accordingly. 

In these final two steps of Teamwork, focus on how to support the team more broadly by thinking carefully about the needs to the team, and then bringing in external expertise when required.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What are some of the attributes your team might have
  • How to identify the attributes of your team
  • How to support your team

Reflection questions

  • What do we mean by attributes?
  • What are some of the attributes that your team might have?
  • How can you use this understanding to better support your team?
  • Have you had any experience of doing this?

What you need to know

The attributes of your team

In Leadership Step 8, we introduced the idea of understanding your team from the role of the leader. However, at advanced levels of Teamwork, thinking about the team is no longer just a role for the leader, but is something that everyone can contribute towards. 

A balanced approach to thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of your team members might include these four areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding: The expertise and experiences that individuals have, which might consist of formal qualifications, or years of doing something similar. 
  • Relationships: The people that they know, and how positive and trusting those relationships are.  
  • Character strengths: The traits that people have and the choices they make – perhaps including being honest, reliable, careful, enthusiastic, for example.
  • Skills: These are the things that individuals can do. They include basic skills like literacy, numeracy and basic digital skills, essential skills as laid out in the Skills Builder Framework, and more focused technical skills. 

The design of the project and the tasks will dictate which of these attributes will be more or less important to the completion and success of the project.

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How to recognise attributes

It is important never just to assume what someone’s strengths and weaknesses are. However, over time you might start to build up a picture:

  • Sometimes our interactions with people help us to build up a sense of their skills and how well they can do things like listen, speak, solve problems or work with other people. 
  • We might also observe how people carry out tasks, and we can use this as a way of seeing the strengths they can put into use, and where they appear weaker. 
  • We might hear from other people who have worked with them who highlight their strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Qualifications or certificates are a final way of identifying skills and knowledge and are particularly crucial for some technical skills where real expertise is involved, or where there is danger if mistakes are made. 

This combination will help you to understand the attributes of your wider team, and this insight can help you to think about whether you can support the team differently.

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Supporting your team

With this insight about the strengths and weaknesses of the team, there are several things that you might be able to do to support them:

Time pressure: A team member might have the right attributes to complete their tasks, but not have enough time. In this case, you could:

  • Support them by offering to take on some of their tasks if you have the capability and capacity.
  • Seeing if there are some other tasks that you or another team member could complete for them to reduce their overall workload.

Lack of expertise: Alternatively, a team member might not have the skills, experience or knowledge to complete the tasks they have been given. In this case, you could:

  • Help to coach or mentor that individual if you have the attributes that are required.
  • Take on the tasks if you have the capability and capacity.
  • Suggest sharing the task differently so that everyone is using their attributes and playing to their strengths. 

For these approaches to be successful, you need to ensure that you and the individual have the same view about their attributes or capacity so that you can support them. If this is not the case, or your motives are questioned, then it will be very difficult to effectively support that individual.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should remind learners about what attributes are, and to create a shared definition of what sorts of attributes their team members might have. This is a reminder of some of the material covered in Leadership Step 8.
  • Learners can think about some examples of each of the four main categories of Knowledge, Relationships, Character Strengths, and Skills to consolidate understanding. The teacher can lead this into a discussion about how the relative importance will depend on what the team is trying to achieve: it is never an absolute assessment; it is always about the context. 
  • Learners can reflect on how they can recognise others’ attributes, with the teacher emphasising the importance of not rushing to quick judgements or falling into unconscious biases (see Step 5). 
  • Learners can then think about how this assessment of their team’s strengths and weaknesses could inform how they can help, sketching out different scenarios.
  • Ideally, learners would apply this so a collaborative project that they are working on together, thinking about how to best support one another. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced whenever learners are working together in groups for an extended period, or when they are planning a project and thinking about the different roles that each group member could play. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observation of how a group interacts and works together over an extended project. The teacher is looking for evidence that learners are aware of, and responsive to, the needs of others in their group.

This observation should be validated through a reflection with the learners who have taken part in the task to explore how they decided how they could help, and whether they assessed the attributes of their team members effectively.

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 the team’s strengths and weaknesses relative to the demands of the situation. A manager might scaffold this reflection, leading the manager to reflect on the team’s strengths and weaknesses in relation to four main categories of Knowledge, Relationships, Character Strengths, and Skills. This new insight can help the individual to more effectively support their team. 
  • Model some of the techniques to support team members relative to their perceived strengths and weaknesses. Taking inspiration from the section above, a manager can show some options the individual might try to support others, optimised for certain situations. 
  • Task an individual on a research exercise to collect new insights on their team’s attributes. This might involve the individual interviewing other managers to find out best practice in the sector, or investigating technology-enabled solutions which collect performance data. 

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 strengths and development areas of the team.
  • Working with customers or clients: When there is an opportunity to improve our team, to deliver a better customer or client benefit.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through discussion and collecting feedback.

  • A hiring manager can discuss with an individual how they support members of their team. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual showing an awareness of their team’s strengths and weaknesses relative to the situation and actively pursuing a plan to develop them. 
  • A hiring manager can collect feedback from staff who work with the individual to build a different perspective on how the individual supports others in the team. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

Questioning the individual about instances where they have been able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their team, and how they supported them accordingly. 

Reviewing an individual’s performance in an exercise. This exercise can be about the individual reviewing a case study of the team’s performance. Here they can be given details about a situation the team was facing, some unstructured information about aspects of the team performance and be tasked to prepare a plan on how they can support the team. After a presentation, an observer might interview the individual to look for additional evidence to support demonstration of this skill step: 

  • Does the individual show an awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of the team? 
  • Does their plan consist of a a suitable set of actions in response?

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, every member of a team will have different strengths and weaknesses. Some students may be working to specifically develop these skills but are unlikely to have mastered all the steps at this stage. Therefore it is even more important for other members of the team to share this responsibility and to support the leader in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of others and supporting accordingly.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

A team within an organisation often works together on a permanent basis. In this case, there is a long term benefit of a full and supportive understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, firstly, so that any gaps in the team can be addressed but also, so the team can collaboratively support each other to develop their weaker areas. Over time, the skills of the team will improve, their understanding of each other will enable greater collaboration and the team will become increasingly effective. This will also benefit morale, motivation, efficiency and outcomes which in turn improve the productivity of the organisation.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

A team can become stronger if the weaknesses and challenges within the team can be recognised and addressed. With knowledge of people’s strengths and weaknesses tasks can be allocated more appropriately and not induce exposure or vulnerability in anyone. However, this can be problematic for people particularly if they only meet with their team occasionally or on a voluntary basis, for example a community group committee or Board of Governors. If you are able to identify the strengths and weaknesses and positively support people accordingly then the team could become more motivated and the tasks more pleasurable.

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 8 and prepare a list of the attributes you may look for in a team member using the four areas discussed in the Step.
  • Review the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals in each team you are currently a member of. Next to each strength or weakness, indicate how you know this, for example, interactions, observations, discussions, certificates.
  • For one of your current teams, and with reference to its specific tasks, decide which category or categories of attributes are the most important, knowledge and understanding, relationships, character strengths and skills. With specific reference to these attributes, identify the weaknesses within your team and make a plan for how you could support them, recognising how you will communicate this.

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