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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 14, individuals will show that they are able to support others to stay positive by helping them to recognise opportunities. 

The previous step focused on helping others to stay positive through us managing our own emotional responses to events or news. This step builds on this further by thinking about how to help others to identify opportunities when there are too.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • Why coaching helps others identify opportunities 
  • How to support someone into the right mindset to be coached
  • How to coach to support someone to spot new opportunities

Reflection questions

  • How can coaching support others to stay positive?
  • What mindset does another individual have to be in so that they can be effectively coached? 
  • How can you support them to get into that mindset? 
  • How can you coach someone to identify new opportunities?
  • Have you had any experience of doing this, or having someone coach you in this way?

What you need to know

Identifying positive opportunities

In Step 7 and Step 8, we explored how to identify opportunities in difficult situations. This step builds on this by focusing on how you can coach and support others to identify those opportunities for themselves.


Coaching for opportunities

Coaching in this context is about facilitating and supporting others to reach conclusions for themselves. There is good evidence that individuals who identify opportunities for themselves are more likely to be invested in making them successful. This about them having a greater sense of ownership over the opportunities they have identified. 

Critically, coaching is not about being directive but rather around helping to structure someone to reach the answer by themselves, and this is where questioning is invaluable.


Helping yourself and others

The reason that this is such an advanced step for Staying Positive is that it requires you to first have a high level of skill in managing your own ability to stay positive and deal with the emotional impact of events before you can begin to coach someone else. 

Before you can coach someone, you need to be in a positive mindset yourself – you can explore more how to do this in Step 13

Likewise, to coach someone else, you won’t get far until they are also in the right mindset. Broadly, this means that they:

  • Have managed their initial emotional response so that they are no longer overwhelmed by negative emotions like sadness, anger or fear.
  • They are open to analysing the situation together to look for positive opportunities.

Getting into the right mindset

To get to this productive mindset, a combination of approaches are likely to be important:

  • Acknowledging the setback and the individual’s emotional response to that setback: Helping the individual feel that their response was legitimate and understandable is important in helping them to move beyond it.
  • Helping them address on-going sources of upset or distress: If there are on-going things that are upsetting them, these need to be fixed before you can move on. 
  • Boosting motivation: by focusing on what has already been achieved, and the positive side of what might come later. Motivation often decreases when individuals feel that they are less likely to the get the good outcome they were hoping for, or that it will be less good than they anticipated. 

Once you have helped individuals to get back to a place of calm, you should ask them whether they are ready to explore some of the opportunities in the situation.


Coaching to start spotting opportunities

Since coaching is about helping another individual to find an answer for themselves, questioning is a critical part of coaching. Good questioning takes the individual being coached on a journey, and the flow of the questions is important. One structure that you might use is:

  • What has changed about the situation?
  • What has been disappointing / upsetting / angering about that happening?
  • What is still going well, though?
  • Are you ready to talk about some of the opportunities that might exist?
  • What do you see as some of the opportunities that there are?
  • Are there any that excite you?
  • What are the potential gains and the risks of some of those opportunities? 
  • Which would you like to pursue further?

In this way, good coaching can help us to move from disappointment or worse, to identifying opportunities.


Advice for


Why this skill step matters in education

Many educators recognise that learners need to have a sense of ownership over their learning. It is widely recognised that learners who identify opportunities for themselves are more likely to work hard and remain engaged. When a learner encounters a difficulty with their learning, if someone is able to help them to them identify what exactly the difficulty is, deal with it calmly and focus on opportunities and solutions – they are much more likely to be able to stay positive and stick with the learning. A coaching model, is ideal, as it supports the learner to adopt a positive growth mind set to move forward. Effective coaching can help a learner move from frustration, anger or anxiety towards concentration, motivation and aspiration.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In recent years, coaching has become more common in many workplaces. Coaching is about helping and supporting others to reach conclusions, find solutions and take action for themselves. Research has shown that individuals who are able to do this are much more likely to stick with a task or project - seeking to get their job done in the best possible way. A work place coach needs to have a high level of skill in this area themselves. They need to be able to stay positive and deal with the emotional impact of events with a positive mind set. Since coaching is about helping another individual to find an answer for themselves, questioning is a critical part of coaching. Good questioning takes the individual being coached on a journey. Training to develop an effective coaching style can be undertaken to help colleagues in the workplace.

Why this skill step matters in the wider world

There will be times in your personal life when being able to support others to stay positive and look for opportunities will be a valuable skill to have. Whilst being able to communicate to a friend or family member that their emotional response was valid and understandable, it is important to help them move beyond it, or they will continue to feel the negative emotions. By focusing on what has already been achieved, or encouraging them to look to the positives as to what might come later, you can offer support through focused questioning.

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!

  • Investigate coaching. Read around the subject and look out for courses – many providers offer both short and more in-depth courses to support coaches to develop their style and questioning skills.
  • Create a set of question cards to prompt your questioning when seeking to support others: what has been disappointing /upsetting / angering about that happening? What is still going well, though? Are you ready to talk about some of the opportunities that might exist? What do you see as some of the opportunities that there are? Are there any that excite you? What are the potential gains and the risks of some of those opportunities? Which would you like to pursue further?  
  • Remember coaching is about actively listening and helping the individual to find the answer for themselves. It is not about telling them what to do.

Build this step

Advice for


Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should introduce the idea that at this advanced stage of staying positive, the focus is now on how to support others to stay positive and to identify opportunities in the face of setbacks or difficulties. 
  • Learners should revisit the definition of coaching, and discuss how coaching can be helpful to support others to stay positive in the face of challenges. 
  • Learners could draw on what they’ve learnt about staying positive for themselves to think about how they can support someone else to get into the right mindset to be coached to identify new opportunities.
  • They can then think about some of the questions that they could use to coach someone to identify new opportunities. The teacher can supplement these with some of the ideas above, emphasising that coaching is about taking someone on a journey to reach an idea themselves, so the ordering and flow of questions is essential. 
  • Learners could practice this approach by coaching one another – ideally with a real challenge that one of them is facing. 

Reinforcing it

The idea of coaching can be reinforced in lots of different settings and can be used in the classroom when learners are facing particular challenges relating to their studies or wider educational choices. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observation of the learner applying some of the coaching techniques to another individual to help them think beyond a particular challenge to identify new opportunities. This can be supplemented by a reflection and debrief afterwards to illustrate some of the techniques that the learner is aware of.

Build this step

Advice for


Build it at work:

This step will be relevant to individuals who help others to turn setbacks into opportunities, either as a manager themselves or team member. 

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

  • Discuss with the individual how coaching can help others to stay positive. Here a manager could explain what coaching is about, providing a definition if helpful. 
  • Model a process of coaching to show an individual an example. Here they can demonstrate how to get into the right mindset first and then how to prepare questions they can use questioning to take an individual on a productive journey.
  • Task an individual to prepare additional coaching questions which can be used to help an individual to stay positive.
  • Reflect with the individual about what opportunities they have to coach others to stay positive in their roles. 

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When working with a colleagues who are facing a difficulty, with a focus on helping them to see the positive in a situation.
  • Working with customers or clients: During meetings with clients or customers, when you want them to see new potential in a difficult situation, with a focus on using coaching achieve this.

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 coach others.

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual during an assessed exercise. This exercise could be about applying some of the coaching techniques to another individual to help them think beyond a particular challenge to identify new opportunities.
  • This can be supplemented by a reflection and debrief afterwards where the individual explains how they set out to achieve this. Evidence of this skill step an be found in the individual explaining how the activated the right mindset and used questioning to take the individual on a journey.
  • Questioning the individual about whether there are times when they’ve coached others to see opportunities in a difficult situation.

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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