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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 3, individuals will show that they can take responsibility for completing their tasks. 

The earlier steps have been about building the foundations of being able to work effectively with others by working positively, behaving appropriately, and being on time and reliable. This step builds off this by focusing on taking responsibility.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What it means to take responsibility 
  • When taking responsibility works well

Reflection questions

  • What does it mean to take responsibility?
  • What are the positive effects of taking responsibility? 
  • What are some of the risks of taking responsibility? 
  • How can you get the balance right?
  • Do you have any experience of taking responsibility?

What you need to know

What it means to take responsibility

Taking responsibility is taking charge of something and working to ensure that it is a success. It means that you get the praise if it goes well, but it also means that you have to take the blame if it goes badly. 

In this context, it means that when given a task, you work hard to make sure that it happens and don’t make excuses or blame other people if things go wrong. Instead, you try to fix any problems yourself or find someone else to help, rather than giving up.

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The advantages of taking responsibility

There are lots of positive sides to taking responsibility for something:

  • It gives you a greater sense of ownership over your work and what you are trying to do which makes it more enjoyable.  
  • If you are taking responsibility, you are likely to be given more control and freedom in what you are doing.
  • Showing that you take responsibility helps to build trust with others.
  • Taking responsibility also helps you to learn better, because you have to work harder to overcome setbacks and problems – you cannot just give up.
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The disadvantages of taking responsibility

There are also potential negatives to taking responsibility:

  • If you are being asked to take responsibility, but don’t have enough control to affect whether the tasks are a success or not, this can be very difficult. 
  • If you do not have the training or skills to be able to complete the tasks.
  • If something goes wrong which is beyond your control, then you might still be blamed for what has happened.
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When taking responsibility works well

To get the balance right, there are certain things you should try to push for when taking responsibility:

  • A clear view of what you are responsible for, and how you have enough control to be able to achieve what needs to be done. 
  • That you think there is a good chance of success.
  • That you have the skills and training you need to complete the tasks. 
  • That you are clear about what you are not responsible for. 

In these cases, it is a good thing to take responsibility, for all of the positive reasons that we have already talked about.

Showing that you can take responsibility is a key part of being able to work with others and make a contribution to a shared goal.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can introduce the concept of ‘taking responsibility for a task’ and ask learners what they think it means. The teacher can model this by talking about things that they have to take responsibility for.
  • Learners can give examples of when they have had to take responsibility for getting a task completed, and how they felt about it.
  • The teacher can then lead a discussion about why it can be useful to take responsibility, but what you need to be clear about first.
  • This can be illustrated by giving the learners a challenge to work on in a team, where each individual has to take responsibility for their tasks for the whole job to be completed. For example, creating a picture where each of them create a piece and then put them all together at the end, or a presentation where each of them need to write and say part of it in turn.

Reinforcing it

The concept of taking responsibility for completing tasks is a good one to build and reinforce in class. When learners receive tasks for themselves, they should be told how they are being given responsibility for completing them (whether they are individual or group tasks) and the teacher can reinforce clear expectations.

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observation over a sustained period to see whether learners are able to demonstrate taking responsibility for completing tasks over the long-term.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work:

This step is relevant to all those who with others on shared projects.

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

  • Discuss with the individual what they think it means to take responsibility for a task and what the benefits are of taking responsibility. Encourage the individual to come up with some of the ideas outlined above. 
  • Explain to an individual the potential pitfalls of taking responsibility and how to mitigate those.  
  • Model a process the individual can follow to take on responsibility for a task. 
  • Task the individual to create a checklist of things they should do when taking on a task, to set themselves up for success.
  • Reflect with the individual about the areas of their lives where they’ve taken on a responsibility.  

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When decisions are being made about how to share work, with a focus on checking you are able to take responsibility for the tasks you are given.
  • Working with customers or clients: When you can explain how you plan to take responsibility for a task to a customer in order to build their trust.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed by observing an individual over a sustained period to check they are able to take responsibility for completing tasks over the long-term.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Questioning an individual to check they know how to take responsibility and what this can look like.
  • For additional evidence, a hiring manager might seek out a reference on the individual from a stakeholder who has worked closely with them. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the reference describing how an individual has approached taking responsibility for a task in the past.

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

Throughout education we often have to work with others on a project or assignment. Roles and tasks will usually be shared between the group, according to skills, interest or time available. The work given to you is likely to have a deadline, either because someone else needs your work to be able to do theirs or because the whole project has a final deadline. You will need to act responsibly and ensure it is completed on time so that you do not let others down. The group would not be impressed if they failed the assignment because you did not do your part properly.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace, most things we do have an impact upon someone else in the organisation, for example, completing our task on a production line, ordering goods for another department to use, preparing information someone else needs to make a decision. By taking on responsibility for the task we are committing to complete it, ready for the next person who is relying on our work. Being reliable and responsible at work may be rewarded with thanks, praise, promotion or even increased pay. Someone who does not take responsibility for completing their work may find they cannot retain their job in the long term.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In the wider world we may have to take responsibility and do something for other people, for example, booking tickets, arranging a visit, finding information. Friends or family may be waiting for the information or relying on you to get the tickets. Failure to complete any of these tasks will disappoint or even annoy the others. They may seek to blame you and perhaps not include you next time an activity is planned.

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!

  • Think about the last time you didn’t do something you said you would or you did not complete it on time. What was the reaction of those relying on you? Did you apologise? Take responsibility? Correct the situation?
  • Think about the last time you were praised for doing something. Did you finish it on time? Did you do everything you said you would? How did others react?
  • Imagine you are planning a party or another event. List all the task that need to happen before the event can take place, for example, prepare a list of invitees, send out invitations, plan and order food. Next to each task, write down what might happen if this job was not done on time or not done at all. What would be the impact on other people involved? How might people respond to you?

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