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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 2, individuals will show that they can recognise the feelings of others. 

In earlier steps, the focus was on individuals understanding their feelings and being able to explain them to others. This step is recognising the emotions of others and how to react well to those.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to recognise how other people might be feeling
  • How to explore how others are feeling
  • How to react to others’ feelings

Reflection questions

  • How can you tell how other people are feeling without them speaking? 
  • How can you explore how other people are feeling through questioning?
  • How should you react to others’ feelings?

What you need to know

Recognising positive feelings

It is not always easy to tell what emotion someone is feeling, and some people might choose to try to hide how they are feeling for different reasons. However, we can also pick up some clues about how people are feeling:

Positive emotions

How you might be able to tell

Happy:

  • Joy
  • Grateful
  • Optimistic 

Happy people tend to smile, and to look at you directly. They might also laugh and seem comfortable. 

Excited: 

  • Amused
  • Energetic 
  • Inspired

People who are excited tend to be very active and look like they have lots of energy, like they want to get on and do something. 

Calm:

  • Kind
  • Loving 
  • Relaxed 

Calm people are likely to have a more neutral facial expression, although they might smile a bit. They seem to be content to stay where they are, rather than having lots of energy to use. 

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Recognising negative emotions

We might also pick up clues for negative emotions that people might be feeling. For example:

Negative emotions

How you might be able to tell

Sad:

  • Disappointed 
  • Tired
  • Fed up

People who are feeling sad are unlikely to be smiling, and might have downturned mouths. They are unlikely to laugh, and might cry or look like they could cry. 

Angry:

  • Irritated 
  • Angry
  • Upset

Angry people tend to have a lot of energy. They might shout or talk loudly, and might look red-faced. They might frown or clench their teeth together.  

Scared: 

  • Nervous
  • Anxious
  • Frightened

Scared people might not look directly at you, but look around. They might seem twitchy and are unlikely to laugh or smile.

Over time, you might well be able to get better at recognising emotions in other people by looking for some of these signs.

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Misconceptions we might make

Although we might be able to get a sense of how other people are feeling through their facial expressions and body language, we should not just presume that we understand:

  • We might have misread how they are feeling – we might easily confuse sadness and nervousness. 
  • We could also have misunderstood what they are thinking. We might think they are reacting to what we’re thinking about, but they are upset or excited about something entirely different in their own lives. 

We might not know why they are feeling that way. It is easy for us to assume that we understand why they have a particular reaction, but it is just a guess.

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How to explore how other people are really feeling

For all these reasons, we should try to learn more about why people feel the way that they do about something. To do this, we can use:

  • A safe space – making sure people feel that they can share how they are feeling about something without getting into trouble. 
  • Open questions – these are questions that do not presume to know the answer. For example, you might ask someone “What do you think about that?” or “How do you feel about that?” 
  • Ask follow up questions – to check your understanding, you can use follow up questions but again try not to presume you know the answer. For example “What is it that disappoints you about that?”
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How to react to people’s feelings

Sometimes you might not understand why someone feels the way they do, or feel that it does not make sense. That is why it is important not to end up arguing with people about how they feel or how they should feel. 

Instead, the focus should be about acknowledging how someone is feeling (“I understand that you feel…” or “I hear that you feel…”). You can then try to understand why and see if anything can be done to make them feel better if they are feeling negative about something.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • If the teacher feels confident, they could act out different emotions and ask learners to try to guess what emotion they are feeling. This can lead into a discussion about how we recognise the feelings of others.
  • Learners could capture their ideas on how you spot different emotions, either in a written form or in drawings. 
  • The teacher should then discuss why we shouldn’t just rely on what we see to presume we understand others’ emotions. Instead, we should check what we think and try to understand why someone feels that way.
  • Learners can practice these ideas through role-play, thinking particularly about the way they would ask questions. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced in the classroom setting when learners are working collaboratively, and new ideas are introduced, or disagreements worked through. In some settings, this can also be a helpful way to encourage learners to resolve misunderstandings or to work together more effectively. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observation of an activity where learners have to explore the feelings of others about something. The assessor is looking for whether the learners can think about the emotions someone else might be feeling and then explore this further through questioning. A reflective discussion after the exercise can help check learners’ understanding.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to all individuals who will experience emotions with others at work. 

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

  • Discuss with the individual why it might be difficult to read people’s emotions in the workplace, exploring the reasons why an individual might choose to hide their emotions, for example. During the discussion a manager might also explain why it is important to check we understand how people are feeling correctly, so as to avoid misreading what they are thinking or misunderstanding how they are feeling. 
  • Model a process to explore how someone is feeling about something. To achieve this a manager might create a diagram of this process which has three parts: create a safe space, ask open questions, and ask follow up questions. The manager could walk an individual through this diagram, introducing ideas to each of the sections in turn, to illustrate how to use this process to explore how someone is feeling. 
  • Task an individual to shadow a colleague who is experienced at recognising other people’s emotions. This could be a sales agent who is used to spotting when a customer is interested in a product or a customer service manager who is adept at satisfying customers with their service. Through discussion, an individual might see an effective demonstration of techniques to support this skill step. 
  • Reflect with the individual about what they learned about how to read people’s emotions based on their experiences of shadowing a colleague. 

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When discussing events, tasks or ideas and we want to know what our colleagues think about them. 
  • Working with customers or clients: When we want to know what a customer thinks about our service or ideas 

Reviewing it:

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

  • A manager can observe how individuals interact with their teammates during team meetings.
  • A manager might also collect feedback from a stakeholder who works regularly with the individual. This feedback might be about how well the individual can recognise their emotions. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual during an assessed activity. This might be a role play where an individual should act out a customer-employee scenario. The role play can provide the individual with an opportunity to demonstrate they are able to identify the other person’s emotions and react appropriately.

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 school, a significant amount of time is spent working with others, for example completing a project, contributing as a member of a team or orchestra, or doing lunchtime duties. The ability to complete tasks and duties successfully will depend upon how you and the other people are feeling about something. Someone who is feeling very sad or angry is unlikely to be able to focus on getting the jobs done. If things are not done, it would be very easy for us to blame the other person and be cross with them.

If we are to work together successfully, we need to make sure we do not make a situation any worse. The strategies learned at this step of Leadership will help you to identify how someone is feeling about something and most importantly ask questions to ensure you have a full and correct understanding. Once you have the true reasons for the emotion you can ensure your behaviour towards them is appropriate. Your support will ensure the person feels included in the group, then they are more likely to work positively with everyone.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace, our links with other people may be about the work we do together but may also be about friendship and support. This may be the case when you spend time with people who may not be in your department or team. In this situation, everyone is working for the same organisation and the success of the organisation is dependent upon everyone working effectively.

How someone is feeling will affect the way they approach their work. If someone is sad or upset, they are likely to produce less work, or work of a lower standard. To be able to support someone appropriately, it is important that you master this step of Leadership which requires you to not only identify their emotion but to ensure you have the correct understanding. They can then work to the best of their ability for the good of the organisation. Time spent with a colleague actively listening and asking open questions, will ensure you do not misread the reasons for their emotional feeling. You may not be able to help them overcome the feeling but by acknowledging and listening you are providing support which will help them to feel part of the workplace.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

We are likely to experience the emotions of friends and family on a regular basis. It is easy to be cross when others do not behave as we might like them to do. Our behaviour towards them can often make a situation even worse. Can you remember when a parent or sibling was cross and their shouting made you cross? Perhaps you shouted too?

By mastering this step of Leadership, identifying and understanding the emotion someone is feeling about something, we can change our behaviour towards them and make the situation better, instead of worse.

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!

  • Practise asking open questions. When sitting with friends or colleagues, at a break or mealtime, try asking one or two open questions. Did you get a short answer or did a more detailed conversation take place? Keep practising and note the differences in response.
  • When with friends or colleagues, try to guess how one person is feeling by their body language or what they are saying. Ask one or two open questions to try to find out more about how they are feeling. Was your guess correct? What was it that helped you or mislead you?
  • Think of a time when you were feeling very sad or upset about something. Did anyone talk to you about how you were feeling? How did the action of others make you feel? What would you like someone to have said or done?

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