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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 identify any capability gaps in their teams and use their external relationships to help fill these gaps. 

In the previous step, the focus was on how to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the team, and use this to provide the right support to team members at the right time. This step builds on this further by thinking about how external relationships can also be mobilised to support the team.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What the purposes of external relationships might be
  • How external relationships can benefit your team
  • How to nourish those external relationships

Reflection questions

  • Why is it helpful to have professional relationships outside of your team?
  • How can those relationships be helpful?
  • How can you use those relationships to particularly help your team?
  • How can you ensure that these relationships stay strong and productive?
  • Have you had any experience of using external relationships to the benefit of your team?

What you need to know

The purpose of external relationships

In Step 11, we explored the importance of external relationships to achieving certain goals for us as individuals and to support our teams. Broadly, these included:

(a) Sharing information and learning 

  • Sharing information and learning as peers.
  • Mentoring or coaching someone outside of the organisation.
  • 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.
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How external relationships can benefit your team

These external relationships are important for your wider team as well, though. Depending on the challenges that your team are facing, you can mobilise these relationships in different ways to build capacity:

  • Making introductions: Many new customers and clients will come through introductions, so mobilising your network can help to find the people you need. We saw in Step 11 that introductions are much more powerful than simply researching and cold calling people. 
  • Sharing experience and expertise: Many organisations use an advisory board or non-executive directors to provide advice to their teams. This approach can be used by a team to get particular insights, essentially using a mentoring approach.
  • Coaching and team development: Some individuals you know might be willing to act as a coach to other members of your team, giving them a chance to think through problems and focus on their own personal development.
  • Joint working: If your team doesn’t have all the resources and attributes it needs to complete a task, then you might want to partner with someone else. In this case, your networks will be an invaluable place to start. 
  • Expanding your team: In some cases, you will be able to recruit someone to your team on a temporary basis to fill a gap in the attributes your team has (see Step 14).
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Nourishing relationships

Throughout building these external relationships, and mobilising them, it is important to bear in mind that it is just as important to keep nurturing those relationships. When other team members are involved, you must ensure that their actions and behaviours are also helping to nurture that relationship. This means maintaining:

  • 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. 

If this can be done, then you have essentially expanded your team – and you can all work together to achieve your shared goals.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can start by reminding learners about the importance of relationships that go outside of the team, and ask learners how what those relationships might focus on. 
  • Learners can reflect on some of the different ways that other individuals could be of use to the team, and the teacher gather these ideas. These can be reconciled against the broad categories shared above.
  • Finally, the teacher should lead a discussion about how relationships need to be respected and nourished by all members of a team who interact with that other individual or their teams. 
  • Learners could apply this by thinking about different team challenges they might face and how they could use external support to address those challenges. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be most effectively reinforced over an extended project, where teams might have scope to engage external individuals for support, expertise or additional capacity. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observation of a sustained project where learners need to engage with others outside of the team in order to complete the tasks. The teacher can observe that the team make an appropriate appraisal of the support that they need and who they can ask for that support. The teacher should also observe whether the team can maintain that positive relationship thereafter. This can be complemented by reflection from the individuals themselves. 

If this is not possible, individuals could reflect on occasions in their wider lives where they have demonstrated this step.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This skill step is relevant to individuals who work in teams where they can bring in external relationships and expertise.

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

  • Discuss some of the benefits of external expertise and relationships to help the individual understand how they might be used. To achieve this, a manager might mind map in front of the individual some possible ideas, drawing on the examples on the sections above and on their own professional experiences. They should ask the individual to contribute their own ideas on possible benefits, too. 
  • Task an individual on an exercise to create an action plan to bring in external expertise. Here the individual can draw on their assessment of the team’s strengths and weaknesses which inform the rationale behind external relationships. 
  • Reflect with the individual on the barriers to nourishing external relationships that the individual has cultivated. Here a manager might explore some of the issues affecting their ability to bring in new relationships which develop their team. Some of the areas that might be explored in this reflection could include whether the individual perceives the have the right level of access or resources (time or money) to bring in external relationships to support the team. This may expand into a coaching conversation on what can be done to address some of these barriers.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When the team is ready to grow, with a focus on this growth stimulus coming from an external source, or needs external support.
  • Working with customers or clients: When we know of a customer benefit we want to produce but lack the right capabilities to deliver. 

Reviewing it:

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

  • A manager could have a reflective conversation with an individual. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual being aware of the benefits of external relationships and how best to nurture them. 
  • To support this assessment, a manager might observe over time to identify instances where an individual introduces an external relationship to realise these positive effects. Here, we would be also interested in how the individual nurtures these relationships after introducing them.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Questioning the individual during an interview. This can ask the individual to describe a time when they have introduced an external relationship to the team, what their motives were and what effect it created. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual’s description of how they realised a benefit and what they did to nourish the relationship.

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

When you are in the later stages of your education, you are likely to have met a range of people from outside your educational setting. Relationships may have been built with people involved in your work experience, coaches and mentors, areas of personal interest and experts in any number of subjects. As you develop your confidence in adding value to your team, so you will be able to recognise the need for further advice, information or support and not only that but know the person to ask or invite. This is why the development of relationships and networks becomes increasingly important.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

The ability to recognise what your team may need or be lacking, is one thing, but having people in your network that you can invite to support or advise your team is even more powerful. At work, you may know people from a different department in your business who could join your team for a meeting, to offer support. However, it is equally important to know people from outside the organisation who may be willing to support your team. Their expertise and knowledge can be invaluable in providing a piece of essential information or specific advice.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In the wider world, the commitment to your team tends to be on an unpaid basis, either through shared interests or community responsibilities, for example, a Board of Governors, community interest group or local sports club. The team will not necessarily have the expertise it requires to achieve its goals, particularly as the members of many such teams are voluntary and not selected. It is therefore extremely productive and beneficial if you have a network of support and expertise that you are happy to engage and introduce to your team to enable the goals to be achieved.

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 your own network and circles or expertise. Do you know people you could call upon to share their knowledge or offer support? If so, are you happy to reciprocate and if not, identify three actions to help you to develop your own network.
  • Review the progress of all the teams you are currently a member of and identify any areas where further support or expertise may be beneficial to the work of your team. What specific support could help in each case? Do you know someone who could help? If not, how could you find someone? Invite someone to offer the expertise required.
  • Challenge yourself to list at least ten different challenges a team could face and identify the sort of support or expertise that could be introduced to address these challenges.

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