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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 4, individuals will show that they can persist at a task but also respond to setbacks by thinking about what they can learn from when things go wrong.

In earlier steps, the focus was on how to keep trying and stay calm when something goes wrong, with a focus on managing their emotional response. The development here is to introduce some analysis of what caused the problem, and how to learn from it.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to take a positive approach to learning from setbacks
  • How to analyse when something goes wrong and learn lessons

Reflection questions

  • How can things going wrong also be chances to learn something new? 
  • What emotional response do you need to learn from something going wrong?
  • How can we learn lessons when something goes wrong?
  • What are some of the important questions we should be asking ourselves?

What you need to know

How we feel when something goes wrong

In previous steps, we have explored how we might have a negative emotional response when things go wrong. We looked at how these emotions might include sadness, anger or fear. 

However, when something goes wrong, there is often learning that we can take from that experience. This learning might come from several places.


Taking a positive approach to learning from setbacks

  • We might have made a mistake ourselves, and this is what led to something going wrong. We can learn not to make the same mistake again in the future – for example, if we missed a train, we can learn to allow more time in the future. If we did not do as well as we hoped in a test, we could learn the need to revise more in the future.
  • The thing that went wrong might have been out of control, but looking back, we can see that we could have done something to have been ready in case it had happened. This is called being aware of risk, where risks are things that could go wrong. 
  • We might learn something new about ourselves – for example, we might see that when we are late, we get upset or angry. In this case, we can recognise these emotions better in the future and take steps to calm ourselves down (see Step 3). 
  • Something not working might teach us something. In science, the process of learning is driven as much as by things that do not work, as things that do. Science is all about creating ideas and then testing them through lots of different experiments. Most of the ideas that people come up with are wrong – but they test them to find out.

How this applies in the workplace

Along with science, lots of businesses and other organisations also take the attitude that it is good to try things out even if they end up going a little bit wrong, because we learn useful information through trying them out. This testing of hypotheses is explored a lot more in Problem Solving Step 12.


Being prepared to learn

The most important part of learning lessons when something goes wrong is about having the attitude of wanting to learn those lessons. 

For us to be ready to learn lessons, we must first get into an emotional state where we can think clearly and rationally about what has happened. Being able to think rationally means being able to think in a sensible and logical way.

In previous steps, we looked at how to move from natural reactions of being sad, angry or scared to be in a state of calm. This is important to do if we are going to be ready for learning.


How to learn lessons when something goes wrong

Then, learning is about asking ourselves a series of questions:

Firstly, analysing the situation itself:

  • What happened? 
  • Why does it feel that something has gone wrong?
  • What is the effect of that happening?
  • What role did I play in the events, and what was out of my control?

Secondly, thinking about what could have prevented that happening:

  • Could I have predicted that would happen?
  • What could I have done to prevent that happening?

Thirdly, thinking about what lessons to take into the future:

  • What do I know now that I did not know before?
  • What would I recommend that others do or don’t do based on my experience?
  • How will I make sure I put what I have learned into use to help me?

This sort of analysis, once calm, means that even when something goes wrong, we can take something positive out of it – some useful learning that we can use in the future.


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Why this skill step matters in education

Many educators believe the best learning comes from things going wrong and mistakes being made. Things can go wrong all the time in education. It might be something quite simple such as forgetting to pack everything you need for a day’s learning, or it might be something that feels important such as finding it difficult to understand a new idea in a particular lesson or subject. When something does go wrong there is learning we can take from that experience. We can learn to change our behaviour, to be aware of any risk of it happening again and recognise how we feel about it. We can learn to not make the same mistake again in the future, if we keep trying. The most important part of learning lessons when something goes wrong is about having the attitude of wanting to learn those lessons. 

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Many businesses and other organisations like to try new things out. It might be using a different type of computer software to store all their customer account information, or it could be trying a new way of packaging their products or advertising their services. Workplaces may try a new way of doing something in order to save time, money, and often both. They may also wish to give a better service to their customers or improve conditions for their employees. Sometimes trying a new way of doing things might go wrong. It might not have the positive results that were expected. However, useful learnings can be made through trying them out and thinking carefully about what happened.

Why this skill step matters in the wider world

Each day, every day, there is a risk that something may go wrong. We might make a mistake ourselves which leads to something going wrong. It could be getting caught in a downpour or leaving our wallet at home. The thing that went wrong might be out of our control. However, by looking back we can see that we could have done something to have been ready just in case it happened. When things do go wrong, we can learn about ourselves and how we react in those situations. We can all learn from mistakes, things not working, errors made, if we think about what has happened and keep trying.

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!

  • Keep a written or audio journal to record your thoughts when things go wrong. You might find writing or talking about when something has gone wrong helps you to understand why it happened.
  • Speak to a trusted friend or family member when you feel something has gone wrong. They may be able to help you understand if anything could have prevented it and help you to learn from the experience.
  • Seek out stories of people whom you admire who did not always get it right first time. There are many successful people from all walks of life including: sport, the arts, business and entertainment for example, who have shared stories of mistakes they have made, things that have gone wrong for them and the lessons they have learned. Their stories may all be different but they have one thing in common. They kept trying.

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Teaching It

To teach this step:

The teacher can introduce the step and the question of how we might learn something when things go wrong. Each of the four main types of learning opportunities can be introduced, and the teacher could model an example of each in turn. Learners could share their own examples from their experience at school or from their wider lives. 

The teacher can remind learners of the importance of getting back into a positive, or at least neutral, emotional state before they can think about what happened and review it.

Learners could contribute their ideas of questions that they could ask themselves to review a situation and make improvements. The teacher can organise them into the three broad categories of:

  • Analysing what happened
  • Understanding if anything could have prevented it
  • Consolidating what learning to take into the future 

Learners could then reflect on a real incident from their own lives, or analyse a created scenario – either alone, or in groups.

Reinforcing it

This is a step that lends itself well to the classroom, as it can be a powerful tool for turning setbacks into more positive learning experiences. It can be applied to events that are being learnt about – natural disasters, historical events, scientific experiments, events in literature – or to events in learners’ own lives. 

Assessing it 

This step can be assessed through a discussed hypothetical task, but a key part of mastering this step is the learners’ ability to control their own emotional response first, and then to be able to look at a situation reasonably objectively. For this reason, discussion of events from learners’ own lives might make for a better assessment approach, but this will need to be supplemented with a sustained view of how learners really react to things going wrong.

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Build it at work: 

This step will be relevant to those who will experience setbacks at work.  

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

Discuss the importance of trying to learn something when things go wrong. Here a manager might explain that this learning might come from several places, listing the four examples set out above.

Model how to get back into a positive, or at least neutral, emotional state before they can think about the lessons they can take from that event. 

Task an individual to review a current work situation and make improvements. A manager might support an individual through a process where they:

  • Analyse what happened.
  • Understand if anything could have prevented it.
  • Consolidate what learning to take into the future. 

Reflect with an individual about how an individual has learnt from a real incident from their own lives.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During situations where the group has experienced a setback, with a focus on turning this into a more positive learning experience.
  • Working with customers or clients: When trying to fix a problem or fulfil a need for a customer with a focus on learning from our past experiences.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through extended discussion with an individual. For instance:

  • A manager might ask an individual to reflect on a work-based situation where something has gone wrong and describe what lessons they took from it. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Questioning an individual during an interview, asking them to describe the lessons they learnt when something has gone wrong. 
  • Observing how the individual copes with the interview setting, especially if something goes wrong in an exercise.

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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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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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