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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 8, individuals will show that they can contribute to group decision making, while actively encouraging other people to participate too. 

In the previous two steps, the focus was on how to contribute to group decision making – firstly, by having the confidence to make contributions yourself, and then by valuing others’ ideas and views and being open to changing your mind as a result. This step builds on this by actively encouraging others to contribute too.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • Why everyone should contribute
  • Why sometimes people don’t want to contribute
  • How you can encourage others to contribute effectively

Reflection questions

  • Why might you need to encourage others to contribute their ideas?
  • What might you miss out on if you don’t? 
  • How can you do this effectively?

What you need to know

Encouraging others to contribute

From previous steps, we have already seen that for a team to make the best possible decisions it needs to benefit from the fullest possible set of views, experiences and information. 

At times, it is not necessary to have group decision making – perhaps the problem or challenge is a simple one, or there is not the time to have a full group decision. If the decision is made though to have a group approach, then it is vital that everyone in the group has the opportunity to contribute.

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The disadvantages of not encouraging others

If they do not:

  • The group does not benefit from the collective experience, knowledge, perspectives and ideas of all its members.
  • Individuals who have not had the chance to contribute might feel excluded from the decision – this might lead to feelings of not being valued and lead to disengagement with the tasks.
  • It increases the risk of bias in the group, and goes against the ideas of equality and inclusivity.  
  • Too much power in the group ends up residing in a smaller number of individuals who do contribute.
  • The group may end up suffering from groupthink where the group moves too quickly to consensus and stops challenging itself (see Leadership Step 6).
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Negative effects over time

These damaging effects are reinforced over time if some individuals do not contribute to group decision making, and end up feeling that their views are never sought and therefore are not valued. Similarly, the need for consensus can end up overwhelming the need for good decisions, and diverse opinions are no longer welcome.

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Why people don’t contribute

Individuals might not contribute to collective decision making for several reasons:

  • They do not feel that they have the expertise, knowledge or skills to contribute.
  • They do not have the confidence to participate – perhaps because they are shy at speaking, or they have had an adverse reaction to their contributions in the past.
  • They do not think that their contribution will be welcome – perhaps because they are not senior enough in the group. 
  • They disagree with the majority of the group and fear being on the ‘losing side’ of an argument.
  • They have additional needs that have not been taken into consideration for them to participate in decision making fully.
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How to encourage others to contribute effectively

The key to encouraging everyone is to make group discussions a safe space. That does not mean that people cannot disagree – instead, it means that everyone’s contributions are:

  • Encouraged: People are actively encouraged to participate. For example, if someone has not spoken, any team member could say “We haven’t yet heard from X – what do you think?” or “I think X might have an interesting perspective on this?” If you know that someone has particular expertise, skill or knowledge in the area, you can include that in your invitation for them to speak.
  • Appreciated: People should be thanked for their contributions – especially if they are not in line with everyone else’s view. This is particularly important because some people might find contributing to a group stressful. 
  • Included: People’s opinions should all be included in the discussion – there is no point thanking someone and then not thinking about their ideas, or just ignoring what they have said all together.
  • Supported: People might have additional needs to take part fully in a group discussion – for example, if they have specific disabilities. In these cases, it is vital to provide support so that they can be fully included.
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Reaching a final decision

At the end of all the contributions, it is the role of the leader to secure a final decision. At this point, you can be helpful by suggesting:

  • Combining ideas: Where people have different views, it might be possible to combine ideas to get to a better solution (see Creativity Step 5).
  • Compromises: You might be able to suggest a middle path that gets some of the benefits of two or more ideas if it is not possible to do both.
  • Ways of reaching a decision: If the group is getting stuck, or starting to go round in circles, you could suggest some ways of reaching a decision. For example, through voting, or seeking additional information or data (if time allows) that might help resolve two different views.

In the end, working hard to make sure that everyone contributes to collective decision making will make the team stronger, and to make better decisions.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should lead learners in a reflection of what is meant by group decision making and why it is valuable. 
  • Learners can then reflect on when they feel comfortable to contribute to group decision making and when they feel uncomfortable. The teacher could get this started by sharing some examples from their own life. 
  • Learners should then develop some ideas of how they might be able to encourage other people to contribute. The guidance above might also be helpful for this, and provide a useful visual reminder for the next task.
  • To consolidate learning on this step, learners should take part in a group activity. This can be based around making a decision where some learners are given tips to hold back on contributing their ideas unless encouraged to. The decision might be something like “How long should the school be shut over the summer holiday?”. The focus is on ensuring that those learners who have been briefed to be reticent are encouraged to participate by their peers. 
  • This activity can be repeated with a different challenge so that the reticent learners are switched over. This will mean that all have the chance to encourage participation from their peers. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be effectively modelled in the classroom by the teacher, who can make a point of encouraging the participation of everyone in the class. The four steps of how to model ways of encouraging participation might also be available as a set of visual cues. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through the observation of group activities, and looking for examples of when learners have actively encouraged participation from their peers.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This skill step is relevant to everyone who contributes to group decision-making.

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

  • Discuss some of the reasons why someone might not want to join in a conversation. If appropriate, a manager might refer to their own experiences of contributing to group meetings. 
  • Explain to an individual some of the consequences of not including others, referring to some of the reasons listed in the section above. It is worth discussing why some people might not feel that they are able to contribute to a group, and how they might be encouraged to do so. 
  • Model some of the techniques to include others to show an individual the ways they can achieve this. Here a manager can draw on the ideas referenced above.
  • Task the individual on an exercise to observe someone who is good at including others in decision making, to see this in action. 
  • Reflect with the individual on the different approaches they have seen to reach a collective decision which accounted for everyone’s ideas. 

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When discussing ideas as a group, to ensure that everyone has contributed.
  • Working with customers or clients: When we are exploring ideas for a potential solution with a customer or client and there are perspectives we have not yet heard. 

Reviewing it:

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

  • A manager might have a reflective conversation with the individual about how they encourage others to contribute in group discussions.
  • This should be complemented by observation of whether the individual actually does this in practice. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual during a group decision making process. Evidence of this skill step in action can be found in the individual encouraging others to make contributions.
  • This can be complemented by a reflective conversation about the importance of encouraging these wider contributions too.

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, there are likely to be people who are not experienced in group discussions and certainly have not yet mastered Step 6 and Step 7 of Teamwork. Now you are in a position of being able to make contributions and listen to the ideas of others, you have the opportunity to encourage others to contribute. If you can support them to overcome their reason for not contributing you will help to bring more ideas and perspectives to the discussion which, in turn, should lead to better decisions and perhaps better results.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace all decisions should ultimately be to the benefit of the organisation. Your team is likely to represent a broad range of ages, perspectives and experiences, therefore there are likely to be plenty of potential ideas around the table. Regardless of the seniority or experience of others, it is unlikely that everyone else has mastered Step 6 and Step 7 of Teamwork, so you can have an important role to play in supporting those who are reluctant to find their voice. Including more perspectives should improve the quality of the decisions and consequently the benefit to the business. Furthermore, if you are able to show others that you value their ideas, leaders may consider you for management roles in the future.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In the wider world, we may be required to work with others to make decisions. For example, community groups, faith groups, charity or voluntary organisations. In each case, the group is likely to have a diverse membership, each person bringing a different perspective to the discussion but having a common interest in the purpose of the organisation. As described in this step, the final decision is likely to be much improved by encouraging everyone to express their thoughts, ideas and opinions.

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 the content of this step and your experience of previous discussions to compile a list of questions, statements or phrases that you could use in a discussion to encourage others to contribute.
  • When you next take part in a group discussion, make a point of focusing on the contribution of others rather than your own. Listen carefully and interject when you can, to encourage a quieter or non-contributing member to express their opinion.
  • When you next take part in a group discussion, make a note of how many times someone in the group encourages others to contribute. What did the encourager say? Was it a positive outcome, did they contribute?

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