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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 6, individuals will show that they can contribute to group decision making.  

The previous steps were focused on the essential parts of being able to work well with others. The focus now shifts to how to make a contribution as part of a group, starting with how to contribute to group decision making.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What is group decision making
  • How to make good contributions in group decision making

Reflection questions

  • What is meant by group decision making?
  • How can you make good contributions to group decision making?
  • What are things to avoid?

What you need to know

What is group decision making?

Group decision making is when a decision is discussed and decided upon by a group. It might be that ultimately the leader has to make a final decision, but there is a process that gives everyone the chance to feed in their expertise, ideas and opinions.

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The advantages of group decision making

There are some benefits to group decision making:

  • It means that the group benefits from the broadest possible range of views and perspectives.
  • It means that group members understand where decisions have come from.
  • It means that group members are generally more invested in making the ideas work because they feel more of a sense of ownership over what has been decided.
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The limitations of group decision making

There are also some limitations:

  • It can take much longer than an individual just making a quick decision.
  • It can open up debates and disagreements which cannot be resolved.

As a result, group decision making is not always the best thing to do – it depends on the complexity of the problem, the time available and how positively the team can discuss difficult issues.

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How to make good contributions

Effective group decision making depends on the contributions of the members of the group. There are some essential things to think about when making contributions, to make sure that they are helpful:

  • Always think before you share something – so you believe what you are saying.
  • Make contributions positively – avoid becoming aggressive or too forceful when making your points.
  • If you disagree with someone else, then you should say so politely and keep the focus on what they were saying, not about them personally. 
  • Be ready to change your mind if other people share other perspectives or ideas.
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Gaining confidence

Some people feel much more confident in contributing to group decision making. This is particularly the case if they know the others in the group well, are in a more senior position, or if they have more experience. 

You should always feel that you have something to contribute, even if it is just to say which perspective you agree with based on what you have heard – you don’t always have to present a new idea. It is still helpful for the team to understand what everyone is thinking.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should introduce that this step focuses on how learners contribute to their teams, starting with group decision making.
  • The teacher could model where they have contributed to group decision making – perhaps in a staff meeting or in life beyond school. Learners could be encouraged to offer their experiences too. 
  • The teacher can ask learners when they think group decision making works well, and when it doesn’t – perhaps turning this into some shared guidelines, based on the ideas above. 
  • It then works well to simulate group decision making. This could also link to some of the content in Leadership Step 5, which looks at how to run a meeting. Depending on the learners, this could be done as a whole class or split into smaller groups. Learners could be given a question or problem and have to come to a solution as a group. The focus is for each learner to contribute something to that process. 
  • In reflection, learners could think about what tips they would capture for how to make useful contributions, and make sure these are recorded for future use. 

Reinforcing it

This step lends itself well to the classroom where there is the opportunity for learners to work together on problems or questions. Before such activities, learners could be reminded of the goal to make a helpful contribution to group discussion and some ideas of how best to do that. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through an observed activity, similar to that outlined above. The teacher would be looking for evidence that learners can make positive contributions to group discussion. This could also be assessed over a more extended period if there are regular opportunities for group work that gives the opportunity for this skill to be used.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to all those who have the opportunity to feed into shared decision-making.

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

  • Model to an individual how to make a good contribution to a group decision. There are likely to be plenty of moments when a manager makes good contributions to team decision, in front of an individual. To model these effectively, a manager can have a reflective conversation with an individual after their demonstration, identifying the features which lead to the positive effect. This can help the individual to recognise and apply them in their own practice.
  • Task an individual on an exercise which is about them seeing this skill step in action. To achieve this a manager might set up a situation where the individual can observe a decision-making process. The individual can observe the process in action, note the features of the contribution individuals made and how these helped to generate a decision or not. 
  • Reflect with the individual the lessons they can take from what they have observed, and encourage them to apply these to making strong contributions themselves.  

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: Whenever we have a chance to contribute to shared decision-making, or to suggest new ideas or improvements to the way work happens.
  • Working with customers or clients: when a customer wants to know our perspective an issue, with a focus on doing so in a way that is productive and helpful. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through observation. For instance:

  • A manager could observe an individual during a group decision-making process. Evidence of this skill step in action can be found in the individual making a contribution which shows they have: thought about their points before sharing; made their contribution positively and show they are open to new ideas or perspectives. 
  • Evidence of this skill step can also be seen in the individual disagreeing politely in a way which focuses on what is said and not the person.   

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual during an assessed group exercise which features a decision-making element. Here an individual might be tasked to work in a group: evidence of this skill step can be observed in how the individual makes their contributions during the decision-making moment.

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 education we often have to work in groups on a project or activity, both in and out of the classroom: for example, a project on a topic you are studying in History, organising a school fund-raising event or setting up a club for younger students. In each case, as a member of the team you will need to contribute to the discussions about how, who, where, when or what you are going to do. If you remain silent, the group may think you are not interested in the project or even disagree with their ideas and proposals, they may start to exclude you from further discussion and decision-making.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

When we are included in a team to organise or complete a project at work it is likely to be because your manager or team leader thinks you have something to contribute to the group: perhaps you are creative and full of ideas, maybe you are good at organising and will maintain tight control of the plans, you might even just be a good motivator and encourager. It is therefore important to participate in discussions, and contribute, even if only to support something someone else has said. If you choose to remain silent, your manager may think you have nothing to offer and you may be perceived as adding little value to the team. To build your reputation within the workplace you need to make a contribution.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

If you are taking part in a group activity in the wider world, it is highly likely that you are doing so from choice. For example, a volunteer for a charity, a member of a club or organising social activities with friends or family. In each situation the other members of the team will want reassurance that you want to be there, are interested in the activity and are keen to participate. Making a contribution to the discussions and decision making is evidence of your engagement and provides positive endorsement that you wish to be involved.

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 were in a group discussion, planning an activity or project. To what extent did you contribute to the discussion or decision making? If not, why not? Did you agree with the decisions made? How do you think you could have contributed more effectively?
  • Next time you are involved in a group discussion where a decision has to be made, try to make a contribution within the first few minutes. Was it a positive contribution, a new idea or an endorsement? How was it received? What reaction did you get from others in the team? Did you make further contributions?
  • Review the content of this step. Prepare a list of all the different ways you can make a positive contribution to a team discussion and decision making process. At the next opportunity try to use some of the ideas on your list.

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