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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.


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.


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.


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.


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 11, individuals will show that they can use coaching as a means to support other people.  

In the previous step, the focus was on using mentoring as a way to develop people. Coaching builds on this by supporting someone to reach an answer for themselves without being directly told what to do.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What coaching is 
  • How coaching differs from mentoring 
  • How coaching can be used effectively 
  • Why coaching is a powerful tool

Reflection questions

  • What is coaching?
  • How does coaching differ from mentoring?
  • What does a coach do?
  • What are the benefits of using a coaching approach? 
  • Have you had any experience of coaching or being coached?

What you need to know

What is coaching

Coaching is about supporting another individual to achieve their potential. Sometimes this is about the coach providing a soundboard, asking questions and helping the individual being coached to work out the answer for themselves.

Individuals might be supported by coaches to help them to achieve professional or personal goals, and often find them invaluable.


How coaching differs from mentoring

In the previous step, we explored the idea of mentoring. This is normally where a more experienced, skilful or knowledgeable individual will give guidance to a more junior person. 

Coaching is quite different. The coach is not expected to provide the answer – indeed, they might not even know the correct answer themselves. Instead, their role is to act as a ‘sounding board’ to support the individual to explore ideas for themselves and work through a problem to get to a solution. 

This means that they do not necessarily have to be an expert in the field, although that can be helpful in supporting someone to reach a technical solution. Instead, their expertise lies in facilitating the other person to structure their thinking. 

It should be noted that coaching in the context here is quite different to sports coaching, which is much more directive and draws on the expertise of the sports coach.


How to prepare effectively for coaching

Coaching can be a useful and effective tool, but there need to be certain things in place before it can achieve that potential:

  • A shared understanding of the goal that is to be achieved.
  • An appreciation of the role of the coach, and how it differs to that of a mentor.
  • A positive, respectful working relationship where the incentives of the coach and the individual being coached are aligned.

How coaching can be used effectively

An effective coach has to be a great listener (see Listening). That is because the most critical tool that a coach has is good questioning. The coach can use a careful sequence of open questions to open up and explore a topic, and then encourage the individual towards taking action. 

An effective coach uses listening tools along the way like:

  • Asking questions to clarify what a speaker has said.
  • Demonstrate active listening through eye contact and engaged body language.
  • Summarising or rephrasing what they have heard.

Ultimately, to be a good coach, you take to take the other individual on a journey from uncertainly exploring their idea, through evaluating their thoughts, through to a commitment to action.


The power of coaching

Coaching is such a powerful tool for leaders because the leader cannot be expected to know the answer to every possible question. Equally, there is good evidence that individuals who develop their own ideas have a much greater sense of ownership over the solutions and ideas that they have generated. This means they are more motivated to implement those ideas, and tend to need less oversight and direct management.


Advice for


Why this skill step matters in education

Coaching in school or college is less common than mentoring and students are currently more likely to be coached by a teacher or external visitor, rather than another student. To support others through coaching requires excellent listening and questioning skills, rather than experience or knowledge, therefore with practise and application a student can master this step and subsequently coach others to achieve their goal.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Coaching in the workplace is an important mechanism used to improve someone’s performance in their role. An individual can be supported, through coaching, to either improve a current skill or learn a new skill. Some businesses may use coaching to introduce a new system, culture or programme. An employee who is performing below expectations may be coached to achieve a higher level of performance. Good coaching can lead to an improvement in business results, in addition team communications, staff well-being and loyalty can also be enhanced.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

Top athletes, successful business people and high achievers, set goals to achieve their long term vision. However, increasingly, many individuals establish personal goals to perhaps take greater control of their life, improve the quality of their life, to create focus or to motivate themselves. Coaching is a mechanism which supports the individual to work towards these goals and to be accountable for the steps they are taking. In the wider world, expertise in coaching others to achieve their goals will enable you to constructively support a friend or family member to achieve their goal. Expertise or enjoyment of coaching can lead to a formal role as a coach, through charity work or volunteer organisation like The Prince’s Trust.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Leadership, 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!

  • Make a list of ten questions that could be used at the start of a first coaching session.
  • List ten ‘open’ questions that you could use during a coaching session, to help you gain a greater understanding of the other person’s goal, and the likely challenges to be faced in achieving that goal.
  • Offer your services to a fellow student or colleague as a coach. Limit yourself to three or five sessions. After each critically analyse your performance, consider the success of your questioning and listening and establish two or three things you will do differently to improve your coaching performance at the next session.

Build this step

Advice for


Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should start by asking learners to differentiate between mentoring and coaching, and when they think each is more or less appropriate. It is worth explicitly addressing that sports coaching is a bit different to coaching as we’re discussing it here. 
  • Learners can identify what coaches need to be able to do and what needs to be in place for a coaching relationship to be an effective one. 
  • The teacher should highlight that much of coaching draws off advanced Listening skills like active listening, asking open questions, and summarising and rephrasing. 
  • Learners should have the chance to coach one another to give them the opportunity to put this step into practice. If there is time, it works well to have a reflection after as short stint of coaching (say, 10 minutes) and then reverse roles so that all learners have the chance to coach and to be coached. 

Reinforcing it

Peer coaching can be an effective mechanism for helping one another to think through ideas and plans, and so can be incorporated into learning where possible. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observing a learner coaching another. The teacher should be looking for evidence that they are able to set clear goals at the start of the coaching, and then use active listening, open questions and summarising as a way to support the coaching conversation. The teacher’s observation can be supplemented by a reflective conversation with the learner after the coaching session.

Build this step

Advice for


Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to individuals who want to develop others so that they can make a significant contribution to the team goal.

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

  • Discuss with the individual what they think coaching in the workplace looks like. Here, an individual can be encouraged to share examples of coaching that they think they may have seen. To support, a manager can explain what differences are between coaching in a sport context and coaching in a work context and mentoring in a work context
  • Model a process of coaching to show an individual what this can look like. Here a manager can demonstrate how to use coaching questions.
  • Task an individual on an exercise where they can experience being coached. To achieve this a manager might enrol them on a coaching programme. They should also have the opportunity to try coaching someone else.  
  • Reflect with the individual about where they can see examples of effective coaching in action.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When supporting others to find their own solution to a problem.
  • Working with customers or clients: Helping a customer to approach a problem, with a focus on using coaching to help them structure their thinking. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through observing a coaching interaction. For instance:

  • An individual can be tasked with an individual to be coached. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual setting clear goals at the start of the coaching, and then using active listening, open questions and summarising as a way to support the coaching conversation. 
  • What is observed can be supplemented by reflections of whoever is being coached. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Questioning an individual during an interview process to ask how they would support an individual in a way that gives them the most ownership over the solution. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual identifying how they would coach the individual and explaining how they would approach this. 
  • This might also be supplemented by requesting the individual supply a reference from someone who they have coached in the past.

Build this step

Advice for


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.

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Advice for

Parents & Carers

At home, you can easily support your child to build their essential skills. The good news is that there
are lots of ways that you can have a big impact, including:

  • Talking with your child about the essential skills, what they are and how they are useful in all
    aspects of life, whether at school, home or in the workplace
  • Talking about how you use these skill steps in your own work or wider life
  • Helping your child to identify where they already build their skills at school, at home or
    through other activities and clubs
  • Praising your child when they show they are using the skills well, and helping them to feel a
    sense of achievement
  • Encouraging them to recognise and talk confidently about their skill strengths with others, and
    supporting them to develop their skills further

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