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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 15, individuals will show that they can help others to see opportunities and coach them to create plans to achieve them. 

In the previous step, the focus was on how to coach individuals through setbacks to be able to identify positive opportunities. This step expands on that, by focusing on how individuals can also coach and support others to build plans around those opportunities.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What coaching is all about
  • How to coach someone to identify strengths and weaknesses
  • How to coach someone to spot opportunities and threats
  • How to coach someone to set goals
  • How to coach someone through developing a plan

Reflection questions

  • What is the role of a coach?
  • How can you help someone to identify their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What can you ask to explore opportunities and threats?
  • How can you support someone to set goals?
  • How can you coach someone to create a plan?
  • Have you had any experience of doing this?

What you need to know

Coaching to develop plans

In the previous step, we highlighted how these advanced steps of staying positive move beyond your own ability to stay positive, to being able to support others too. The coaching method is the foundation of how to do that effectively.

In this context, coaching is about supporting and guiding someone towards reaching a solution for themselves. It is about facilitating, not directing. It is about questioning, not telling. 

To be able to coach someone effectively to develop plans in the face of a setback requires the ability to manage your own emotions, to calm the other person, and then to use careful questioning to help uncover opportunities. These elements were covered in Step 14.

We pick up here to focus on how to support someone to turn those opportunities they’ve identified into realistic plans.

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Developing a plan: strengths and weaknesses

You have probably already come across a SWOT analysis. Here, the focus is on how you can use questioning to help someone to identify the strengths and weaknesses that they or their team might bring to an opportunity. Some key questions might include:

  • What strengths do we bring to a situation that might be valuable? 
  • What experiences, skills, attitudes or knowledge do you have that could be used?
  • What resources or assets do we have access to that we can use? 
  • What weaknesses do we want to avoid? 
  • Are there any gaps in your experiences, skills, attitudes or knowledge? 
  • Is it possible to fill these gaps yourself, or engage others who could help? 
  • Are there resources or assets that we don’t currently have? 
  • Are there ways of accessing these, or doing without them? 

At the end of this exercise, the individual should have a clear, accurate sense of where their strengths and weaknesses lie in relation to the opportunity they’ve identified.

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Developing a plan: opportunities and threats

Secondly, we want to help the individual to think about the situation itself:

  • What is the opportunity
  • What other positive effects might this opportunity cause?
  • What additional opportunities might it lead to? 
  • What excites you about this opportunity? 
  • What are the threats or things that might go wrong?
  • What are the risks that we face?
  • Are there others who would try to stop this idea from succeeding?
  • How can we combat or control some of these threats?

If we do this exercise well, then the individual should end up seeing the opportunity in the context and also acknowledge the threats and risks that exist too.

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Developing a plan: setting the goal

Coaching someone else, the most vital thing is to help them to reach real clarity on their goal from the opportunity. This should include their primary goal, and then any secondary (or supporting) goals:

  • What is your primary goal
  • How do you know this is your primary goal? 
  • How would you feel if you achieved it?
  • What are your secondary goals?
  • Why do they feel different to your primary goal?
  • Are any of these higher priority than others?  

These goals give us our end – what we are working towards achieving.

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Developing a plan: what needs to happen?

We can then work backwards from here. The normal stages of a plan include:

Scoping and research – understanding the problem more fully.

  • What do you need to find out to make the most of the opportunity?
  • Who could you talk to, and where you could you research?
  • What are the critical questions you need to be able to answer?

Idea creation – developing different ideas for how the opportunity can be realised.

  • What are ten ways that you could use this opportunity?
  • How do they support your primary and secondary goals?

Testing ideas – putting ideas into practice and seeing how they work.

  • What do you need to learn in testing?
  • What are the questions that you need to answer?
  • How will you know if your idea is viable?

Reviewing and improvements – seeing whether the ideas worked in practice and how they might be improved. The cycle of testing ideas, reviewing and making improvements is likely to continue until they feel confident that they are getting towards your goals.

  • What have you learnt?
  • What are you going to do differently as a result?
  • Are you ready to move into implementation?

Putting into practice or production – putting the idea into production, completing the experiments and solving the problems.

At this level, you have mastered staying positive. You’ve demonstrated that you can respond to setbacks, manage emotional responses and create positive plans in response to setbacks. Beyond that, you’ve been able to take that skill and use it to coach and support others too.

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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should be aware that mastering this step, the most advanced step in staying positive, requires a technical understanding of how to create a plan and also how to coach effectively. 
  • The teacher should start by reminding learners what coaching looks like in this context and why it is important to take a supportive approach. 
  • Learners can then identify the steps of creating a plan, from completing a SWOT analysis to setting primary and secondary goals, and then working through the steps of a plan. At each stage, they can be challenged to think of open coaching questions that could support another individual to work out the answers for themselves and develop their own ideas. 
  • Ideally, this would then be applied by learners coaching one another to develop their own plans and work through that process together. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced whenever there is the opportunity for learners to create plans – whether in response to a setback, or just to address a challenge. This might be related to their educational or life plans, or to their studies more generally.

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observation of learners coaching each other to create plans. The teacher is looking to identify that learners can support one another through the stages of developing those plans. This can be explored further through reflection to identify the techniques and approaches the learner took.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

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

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

  • Explain to an individual what good coaching looks like. A manager might refer to points made in the previous steps – such as good coaching being about helping the individual find something out for themselves.
  • Model the ways coaching can be used to develop a plan. To achieve this, a manager might create a diagram with four sections to show the four ways coaching can be used to help develop a plan referring to the stages referenced above. The manager can share this diagram with the individual and walk through how coaching can be used at each stage for this effect. 
  • Task an individual to use this diagram to practice coaching someone to develop a plan. Here a manager might volunteer to be coached and provide a sample situation to be coached on. 
  • Reflect with the individual about how well they could coach their partner to see opportunities and stay positive.

Practising it:

  • Working with colleagues: When working with a colleague who is facing a setback, with a focus on helping them to put in place a plan to maximise the opportunity in a situation.
  • Working with customers or clients: During meetings with clients or customers, when you want them to see an opportunity in a challenge, with a focus on using coaching to help them plan to act on this opportunity.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through collecting feedback. 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 to create plans which are about achieving new possibilities. 

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 coaching an individual to stay positive, see new opportunities and create a plan to achieve them.
  • This can be supplemented by a reflection and debrief afterwards where the individual reflects on their performance. 
  • Questioning an individual about whether there are times when they have coached an individual to see opportunities in a challenging situation, and turn these into plans.

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

When coaching someone in an education context, it is important that both coach and the learner really knows what the end goal is. Is it to learn a brand new concept?  Are they working towards completing an assignment or scoring highly on a test or exam? There will be a primary goal and possibly secondary goals. These goals give the learner their end – what they are working towards – what they wish to achieve, and therefore the learner and their coach can work together to create a plan to help them reach their goals.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Often in the workplace, those individuals who are effective at managing their own emotional response to challenging situations, will find they can offer either formal or informal coaching to colleagues. Coaching is about supporting and guiding someone towards reaching a solution to any challenge for themselves, not telling them what to do. It is about careful questioning and then creating realistic plans together. When coaching a colleague, you can help them carry out a SWOT analysis for example of the situation they find themselves in. This will help them to clearly see their end goal and will guide them to create an action plan to work towards it with a greater positivity and focus.

Why this skill step matters in the wider world

To be able to coach someone effectively, whatever the setting, whether in education, home or the workplace requires skill and focus. A coach may need to first calm the person down, or cheer them up, if they are having an extreme emotional response. The use of careful questioning to uncover opportunities to move forwards will be needed before a realistic plan of action can be created. Reminding a friend, family member or colleague that coaching is not about giving them the answers but about helping them to find the answers for themselves may be needed.

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!

  • Continue to develop your listening skills – this is an essential skill if you are to support others to stay positive. Actively listen to the answers that friends, family or colleagues give to any questions you ask. Try to ask more open questions.
  • Further develop your own set of coaching questions by reading and learning more about recognised coaching approaches.
  • Imagine a friend tells you they wish to buy a car as soon as they have passed their driving test. What questions would you need to ask them to coach them to create a plan to help them reach their goal of buying their first car? Remember you would want them to: scope and research potential cars and their cost, develop ideas about how they might fund the purchase and the running of the car, considering the pros and cons of each approach. They may need to test some ideas out, review these ideas and improve them, before they finally can put their plan into practice.

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