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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 approach difficult problems by seeking advice from an appropriate person to help them to solve the problem.

This builds off the previous steps, which focused on being able to complete tasks by following instructions, or finding someone to help if they needed it. This step changes the focus to explaining problems and asking for advice so that the learner can then complete the task.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to explain a problem to someone else
  • How to act on advice

Reflection questions

  • How can you best explain a problem you are having to someone else – what do they need to know?
  • What mistakes could you make when trying to explain a problem? 
  • What is meant by advice? 
  • How can you make sure you listen well to advice?

What you need to know

Explaining a problem to someone else

A problem is something which is causing us difficulties which we need to fix. In many cases, we can work out how to solve problems ourselves, but we all have times when we cannot solve a problem all by ourselves.

In the previous step, we looked at how we could find someone to help us if we get stuck on a problem. This step is about how to explain a problem we have to someone else so that they can help us.

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How to explain a problem to someone else

There are a few things that we can do to explain a problem to someone else:

  • Start with the goal – what are you trying to do, and why? It is essential that whoever is helping you knows what you are trying to achieve so they can see whether their suggestions will help to achieve that
  • The challenge – where have you got stuck? Once the other person understands what you are trying to do, you can explain what is currently stopping you from being able to do that. For example, maybe you don’t understand a particular instruction, you can’t find something, there is a piece of information that you don’t know, or you can’t physically reach something. 
  • Attempts already - what you have tried so far? It is worth telling the other person what you have attempted previously – this will stop someone just suggesting things that you have already tried.
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How to act on advice

Advice is an opinion that someone gives you about what you should do. 

When we receive advice, it is crucial that we think about it fully:

  • Sometimes, we are so pleased that someone is taking a problem off our hands, that we just follow their advice without thinking about it. This might cause problems, particularly if we have more information or knowledge of a particular issue than they do.
  • On the other hand, sometimes we feel negatively about other people’s ideas because we want to come up with the solution ourselves.
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Getting the balance right

Therefore, we need to get the balance right: to be open to the advice of others, while still thinking about it and checking that it makes sense before acting. 

It is also essential to draw on some of your Listening skills when taking advice – making sure that you’re able to understand, and to ask questions to check your understanding if needed.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should start by modelling an example of finding a problem difficult to solve. They can invite one of the learners to be the person giving advice and show how they would share their problem, following the three suggestions above. On receiving the advice from the individual, the teacher can demonstrate how they think about that advice and whether to follow it.
  • This activity can then be repeated with the learners working in pairs: one to articulate the problem, and the other to provide advice. This can be followed with a peer reflection. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be effectively practised in the context of a classroom, for example, by helping learners to structure how they ask for advice if needed. Alternatively, the teacher can encourage learners to turn to one another with questions if they are stuck on a problem. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observation over time. For example, by observing whether learners can effectively articulate problems that they are facing and act on good advice.

It is also possible to assess this step through a structured activity where learners have to seek help from others to complete the task (for example, learners have incomplete information, so they need to ask a peer for advice to complete the task). This can be effective, but needs to be carefully designed to make it necessary for a problem to be articulated and advice sought and acted on.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to all individuals who are involved in solving problems at work. 

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

  • Model how to explain a problem to an individual. Through this demonstration a manager can show the steps in a process an individual can try, such as explaining the goal and challenge before describing what they have already tried.
  • Explain to an individual what the consequences could be of following advice they are given without thinking about it carefully first.  A manager should use examples specific to the role to help the individual to recognise why it is important for them to think fully before they take action. 
  • Task an individual to observe a more experienced member of staff as they explain a problem to a manager and act on the advice given.
  • Reflect with the individual about how this helped the experienced staff member to complete their task.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During a meeting with a colleague or group colleagues to discuss a task or project, or in the day-to-day of work when a setback is encountered.
  • Working with customers or clients: When unsure of what action to take for a customer or client. 

Reviewing it:

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

  • Observing an individual to check they can clearly explain a problem to someone else.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual during an assessed group exercise to see if they can relay the problem to be solved to other members of the group. 

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 many cases we can work out how to solve a problem ourselves. Sometimes though, we may need the help and support of someone else. This might be a friend, a teacher or lecturer or another member of staff. In order to help though, they will need to know exactly what the problem is. It is important that we explain carefully what it is we are trying to do and why. They need to know what the goal is, where we got stuck and what we have tried to do so far to get unstuck. For example, if you did not do as well as you had hoped in an exam, thinking about why this happened, what you found difficult and steps you have already taken to help. This way they can give the best advice to help us solve the problem and move forward.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In your place of work, be it an office, a retail space, a factory, a hospital, a school or elsewhere, there will be someone who can help you should you come across a problem and you need help to solve it. This might be someone else in your direct team, a manager or a person from another department. It will be important to explain your problem clearly so that they can best advise you. You may have a problem with a customer or colleague, or you may need to share back some information to the team and you do not know where to find it. As they listen to the information you share, they are likely to then be able to offer some advice to you. It is important, if someone has taken the time to listen to your problem and offer solutions to your problem that you listen carefully to them.

Why this skill step matters in the wider world

There are many situations in life when you might face a problem and need advice from someone else. For example, you might be making dinner for some family members but you’re not sure of the recipe or it’s a friend’s birthday but you don’t know what gift to get them. Sometimes when we are given advice by people close to us, we might be so pleased they have suggested a solution to our problem that we just follow their advice without really thinking about it. Listen carefully to any advice offered to us, think about it and check it all makes sense before taking action is needed so that further problems do not crop up.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Problem Solving, 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 a problem you might have had: break it down into what were you trying to door achieve? What was the actual problem you have - where were you stuck? How did you attempt to solve it on your own or who did you ask for help? What advice did they give you? What could was the outcome?
  • Imagine you need to print tickets off for an event you are planning on going to tomorrow. You do not have a working printer. How would you explain your problem to a friend and what advice would you hope they could give you? Try to come up with 2 or 3 different solutions they might suggest to help.
  • Look at social media. See if you can spot any posts where people are asking for advice or help on an issue they have. Have they provided all the information you would need in order to confidently advise them? What other information would you suggest they share?

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