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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 13, individuals will show that they are aware of the effect of their own emotional responses on others and manage them effectively. 

In earlier steps, the focus has mainly been on how an individual can manage their own emotional responses to setbacks, and to identify future opportunities and adapt accordingly. This step, and those that follow, focus on the individual now being a leader on staying positive, and supporting others to apply those same techniques.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • Why you might have to support others to stay positive
  • How emotions spread 
  • How to manage negative emotions
  • How to manage positive emotions

Reflection questions

  • When might you have to support others to stay positive? 
  • How might your emotional response affect others?
  • How can you manage your emotional response to best support others?
  • Why is it important to manage both positive and negative emotional responses? 
  • Have you had any experience of doing this?

What you need to know

Why you might support others to stay positive

This is now an advanced step of Staying Positive, and the focus is shifting from how you stay positive for yourself, to now thinking much more about how you model and support others to stay positive too. 

There are lots of situations in which you might need to support others to stay positive. This might include if there has been a setback that affects your team, an individual has received bad news or had a bad experience, or if there are wider challenges affecting people you know or care about.

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How emotions spread

As humans, we are social animals. That means we are affected by the emotions that other people feel, particularly if we are more empathetic. 

You have almost certainly felt this effect yourself. For instance, when the mood of the room changes when someone comes in who is in a different emotional state from everyone else. That might cheer people up if that person is in a good mood, or it might energise them if someone comes in who is demonstrably excited or enthusiastic about what is going on. 

The flip side though is that it is equally possible for an individual to introduce negative emotions like anger, sadness or fear into a group setting, simply by showing those emotions themselves. We have all seen examples of how angry people together often become increasingly angry, feeding off one another. Similarly, a sad person can quickly spread that sense of despair among a wider group. Fear is also contagious – one person who feels scared can quickly spread that feeling to others.

The emotional effect of films or television is evidence of that too – we emotionally reflect what we are seeing and hearing.

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Avoiding catastrophizing

The good news is that whilst negative emotions can spread quickly, their spread can be stopped by individuals consciously deciding to model a different emotion.

Critically, that is not about suppressing emotions or denying that they exist. This can also be harmful over time if you cannot express how you feel about something. 

However, it is possible to acknowledge negative emotions and the situation that has caused them without those emotions taking over. The focus has to be to stop the negative emotional spiral, which is sometimes called catastrophizing – where something going wrong leads to an emotional response leading to the feeling that everything is going wrong and that the worst possible outcomes are going to happen. 

For instance, the emotional response to a setback might be to feel that all the other risks that have been identified are now also going to come to happen too. It takes a conscious effort to stop that feeling and to rationalise that something has gone wrong, but actually, there is plenty that is going well and that the setback is contained.

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Managing negative emotions

Some good questions to stop a cycle of catastrophizing are:

  • What is the effect of what has happened?
  • Does it make it any more likely that other bad things will happen?
  • What are the practical things that we can do to improve the situation?
  • What is going well?
  • Are we still on track overall? 
  • If not, how do we change our plans? 
  • What is the next best alternative to our current plan?

This sort of self-coaching is an important part of recognising and then managing our own emotions. These emotions can then be shared with other individuals and this discussion extended to them too, to help balance their emotional response.

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Avoiding over-confidence

The flip side of managing negative emotions in the face of a setback is that sometimes we run the opposite of risk: of getting carried away when something goes well. 

This can lead to something called hubris or over-confidence – the idea that we now imagine that everything that is good and that we hope for will come to pass, and that the negative risks that we face have gone away. 

This can be just as damaging if the feeling is spread across the team more widely. Although it is important to celebrate achievements and enjoy positive feelings with others, it is essential not to get carried away, otherwise future setbacks will hit even harder whilst individuals might not pay enough attention to managing risk and potential problems.

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Managing positive emotions

Again, self-coaching can help you to manage your own responses. Some key questions to consider are:

  • What is the effect of what has happened?
  • Does it make it any more likely that other good things will happen?
  • What are the practical things that we can do to make the most of the situation?
  • What do we still need to address?
  • Are we still on track overall? 
  • If not, how do we change our plans? 
  • What is the next best alternative to our current plan?

Once you have rationalised your emotional response, you can also take others on that journey of acknowledging and celebrating achievements. This helps keep a balance, not allowing emotions to completely take over.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should start by emphasising that this is an advanced step, and moves beyond individuals focusing on themselves staying positive, to think about how they support and coach others too.
  • Learners should reflect on how emotions spread, discussing examples that they have seen and how they think that happens. They should think about what that means about how to support others to stay positive in difficult situations, namely the need to consider and manage their own emotional responses first.
  • The teacher can introduce self-coaching as a mechanism for individuals to manage their own emotions. The teacher can facilitate a discussion about how both positive and negative emotional reactions should be moderated through self-coaching.
  • Learners can practice applying this by trying out some of the questions themselves, and thinking about times when these might have helped them. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced whenever learners have an emotional reaction to something. It could become a good habit for teachers to remind them to think about how they can manage their own emotions or to deal with difficulties. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through discussion and reflection with learners about the topics that have been addressed above. This can include reflections from the learners about why these techniques are important and how they allow an individual to support others to stay positive too.

In addition, it can be observed over time whether learners can manage their emotional responses in this way, so as not to adversely affect others.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step will be relevant to individuals who have to work as part of a team, and adapt to changing situations. 

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

  • Explain to an individual how emotions spread and so why it can be important that individuals manage their own emotions before they can positively influence others.
  • Model self-coaching as a way of recognising and then managing our own emotions. 
  • Task an individual to practice self-coaching to help them manage their emotions. If they achieve this, they might pair the individual up with a buddy and ask them both to check in periodically to reflect on their experiences of self-coaching.  

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When working with others, particularly on challenging tasks, with a focus on managing emotions to avoid spreading negative emotions.
  • Working with customers or clients: During meetings with customers or clients, not over-reacting to positive or negative feedback.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through collecting feedback and having reflective discussions. For instance:

  • A manager can collect feedback from stakeholders who regularly work with the individual. This feedback can give the manager an insight into what the individual does to support others to stay positive, in particular if they communicate positive emotions to others.
  • A manager might supplement this by observing the individual during a team meeting where news is shared. They can observe to see if the individual can manage their emotions and influence others positively. 
  • After this observation a manager might have a reflective conversation, asking questions to understand if the individual made a conscious decision about how to process their emotions as they arose.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual during a group task when they face a frustration. Evidence of this skill step can be found in the individual demonstrating an ability to manage their emotions in order to not spread their frustration. 
  • To supplement this observation, an observer might have a follow up conversation with the individual to ask what they did to manage their emotions. In particular, we are looking for the individual to show an awareness of their emotions and a logical approach to managing them.

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

If you are able to develop strategies whilst in education to help yourself to stay positive in challenging situations, you are likely to also be able to support others too. A learner may have had a setback, had a difficult experience or received some bad news. Therefore, they may be feeling some negative emotions. Negative emotions, such as feeling sad or angry can make learning much more difficult. A learner may be feeling very excitable,possibly over confident, because something has gone well for them. This too can get in the way of theirs, and possibly others, future learning. Being able to manage your own responses will help you, to help them, to return to a more balanced, positive emotional state. This way learning can continue in a much more effective way.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace we can be affected by the emotional states of those around us. A colleague who is experiencing negative emotions, whether directly related to the work environment or not, can have a big impact at work. Angry people together can often become increasingly angry. Additionally, a person who feels scared can spread that feeling to others. While negative emotions can multiple in the workplace, they can be stopped. It takes just one person to consciously decide to model a different emotion. This doesn’t mean suppressing an emotion or denying any problems exists. It is about acknowledging the problem and the feeling, but not catastrophizing. Solutions to problems can be found. In many organisations line management meetings allow for the coaching of colleagues. By asking key questions when things go wrong and negative feelings as are felt, a more balanced emotional response can be gained and solutions explored.

Why this skill step matters in the wider world

There are lots of situations in which you might need to support others to stay positive. As humans we are social, meaning we can all be affected, to a greater or lesser extent, by the emotions that others feel. Being able to manage your own emotional responses in challenging situations means you can also support others to keep a balance and not allow emotions to completely take over. By asking some careful key questions, such as those below, we can coach ourselves, and others through challenging times.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Staying Positive, 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!

  • When faced with a difficult situation remind yourself to think about your own emotional response through self-talk and self-coaching. Ask yourself key questions such as: what is the effect of what has happened? Why do you think it happened? What are the practical things you can do to make the most of the situation? What will need to be done next? Are you still on track towards your overall goal?  If not – what changes need to be made to the plan? What is the next best thing you can do? These questions can be asked of a friend, family member or colleague when they are having a tough time too.  
  • Find out more about self-talk and self-coaching, as well as coaching others – there are many publications available about different approaches. You can find out more from your local library or online, including articles, books, videos and courses you can follow.

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