Explore Framework
News & Research
About
Contact

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 5, individuals will show persistence in the face of setbacks, and also be able to influence the emotional reactions of others positively too. 

In earlier steps, the focus was on how individuals focus on their emotional response to things going wrong – persisting where appropriate, staying calm, and being able to analyse and take learning out of a situation. This next step focuses on engaging with others and supporting them to manage their emotional responses too.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to recognise others’ emotional responses to something going wrong 
  • How to cheer up others when something goes wrong

Reflection questions

  • When something goes wrong, how do you sometimes react?
  • How do you think other people feel when something goes wrong?
  • How might you be able to tell? 
  • Why is it helpful to cheer people up?
  • How can you cheer other people up when something goes wrong?
  • How does it depend on what emotional state they are in?

What you need to know

Negative emotions

In the early steps of this skill, we looked at how we sometimes react when things go wrong. We explored three broad categories of negative emotions:

  • Sad: Including feeling disappointed, tired or fed up
  • Angry: Including feeling irritated, angry or upset
  • Scared: Including nervous, anxious or frightened
-

How others might react when things go wrong

Since our immediate natural reaction to things going wrong is often one of these, or a combination of them, we should expect that other people might have a similar set of reactions to something going wrong. 

We might be able to use clues from their facial expressions, behaviour or things that they say to help us to understand what combination of emotions they are feeling. This is explored more in Step 1, but as a reminder:

-

Negative emotions

How you might be able to tell

Sad:

  • Disappointed 
  • Tired
  • Fed up

People who are feeling sad are unlikely to be smiling, and might have downturned mouths. They are unlikely to laugh, and might cry or look like they could cry. 

Angry:

  • Irritated 
  • Angry
  • Upset

People who are angry tend to have a lot of energy. They might shout or talk loudly, and might look red-faced. They might frown or clench their teeth together.  

Scared: 

  • Nervous
  • Anxious
  • Frightened

People who are scared might not look directly at you, but look around. They might seem twitchy and are unlikely to laugh or smile.

-

Consequences and blame

There are a couple of other essential things to consider when thinking about the reactions that individuals have when something goes wrong:

  • They might react not just based on the thing that has gone wrong but about what the consequences of that might be – that is, what will happen next as a result. In some situations, individuals will be worried about whether they will be in trouble themselves or whether it will cause them more problems in the future.
  • They might also look to blame someone or something else for what went wrong. This can sometimes be a negative result of working in a team – an idea which is explored more in the Teamwork skill. 

It is helpful to be aware of these additional influences on people’s reactions when you try to understand how they are feeling.

-

Staying calm when things go wrong

In the previous steps, we have thought about what the impact of being in a negative emotional state can be on us as individuals. We saw how being angry or scared stopped us from wanting to continue with a task even if we really should, and how it stops us from being able to think logically about what happened. (See Steps 3 and Step 4)

We also saw that it is possible to calm ourselves down in a variety of ways (See Step 2).

-

Cheering others up

When thinking about what will cheer other people up, we should start by thinking about how they are feeling. The right thing to do will depend a lot on their emotions, and choosing the wrong approach might end up making things worse.

-

Choosing the right approach

Negative emotions

What you might be able to do

Sad:

  • Disappointed 
  • Tired
  • Fed up
  • Listen to them and show that you understand how they are feeling – they might feel better for talking about it.
  • Talk to them about the things that have been going well, or other setbacks you might have faced in the past, and how you overcame these.

Angry:

  • Irritated 
  • Angry
  • Upset
  • Give them a chance to calm themselves down if they are trying to do this. You might give them some space, or let them go for a walk if they want to.
  • If they want to talk about it, then you can listen to them and show you understand how they are feeling – you do not have to agree with everything they say.
  • When they are calm enough, you can focus the conversation on some of the positives of the situation. 
  • Try to avoid talk of blame or reaction.

Scared: 

  • Nervous
  • Anxious
  • Frightened
  • Reassure them that although the thing going wrong might be disappointing, that the other things that they fear might happen as a result are unlikely.
  • Talk about some of the positive things that are going on and how similar problems have been overcome before.
-

Taking time

The better you know the other individuals who are involved, the easier it usually is to think about what will be most effective in getting them back into a positive emotional state. 

Remember not to rush it – people will take different amounts of time to get back to that positive emotional state than others, depending on them as individuals and the size and nature of what went wrong.

-

Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • The teacher can remind learners about the different emotional responses that individuals might have when things go wrong. It is worth reminding learners that if they have those reactions, then it is reasonable that others might have those reactions too. 
  • The teacher can facilitate a conversation about why it is important to support others to return to a positive emotional state, and then think about some of the different approaches depending on whether the other individual or individuals are sad, angry or scared. 
  • Learners might share some of their experiences that help to illustrate these different approaches and what did or didn’t work in them. 
  • This could be built upon through simulation or role-play where learners take on different roles and try out techniques for cheering up others acting out different emotional states. 

Reinforcing it

This step lends itself well to reinforcement in the classroom setting, where there are opportunities for learners to work together. In these cases, there will inevitably be setbacks or things that go wrong, and these provide opportunities for learners to apply their skill of being able to cheer others up. 

Reflection after such events will help learners to capture those experiences for themselves, and make it more likely they can perform the skill step effectively in the future. 

Assessing it 

This step can be assessed through a hypothetical exercise where learners are presented with different characters displaying different behaviours and either discuss or write about how they might cheer them up after something has gone wrong. 

It might also be assessed through a team exercise where a setback is deliberately introduced to identify where learners are able to quickly stabilise their team and cheer others up.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step will be relevant to individuals who encounter setbacks and might work through these with other people.

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

  • Explain the different emotional responses that individuals might have when things go wrong. This might lead into a discussion as to why it is important to support others to return to a positive emotional state.
  • Model some of the approaches an individual can take to cheer others up when they are in a negative emotional state. 
  • Task an individual on an exercise where they can apply some of techniques for cheering up others. To facilitate this, a manager might create a role play situation involving two individuals. During this role play scenario, individuals might take turns simulating an emotion whilst the other person attempts to cheer the person up.
  • Reflect with the individual about how successful they think they were at cheering the other person up through the exercise.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: Supporting colleagues when they are facing challenges or setbacks to cheer them up.
  • Working with customers or clients: Supporting a customer or client through a difficult situation.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step can be assessed through discussion, feedback or observation. For instance:

  • A manager could discuss with an individual how they might cheer up a team member who is going through a challenge or setback.
  • For further insight a manager could collect feedback from stakeholders on how well the individual has supported them in the past. 
  • A manager might also observe how the individual works with others, and whether they are able to cheer them up when something goes wrong. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing an individual during an assessed team exercise. During the team exercise a setback can be deliberately introduced to identify if individuals are able to quickly stabilise their team and cheer others up.

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

Feeling negative emotions can create a barrier or block to learning. In education, we are often expected to work with others on assignments, presentations or in lessons and being able to cheer others up when something goes wrong is incredibly useful. Knowing and understanding how we feel when we are finding something difficult or feel something has gone wrong for us means we can support others to keep trying and not give up when they are finding something difficult. We might be able to use clues from their facial expressions, their behaviour or things they say, or don’t say, to help us understand how they are feeling. They may be worried about what might happen because something has gone wrong. They may look to blame someone else for any difficulty. When we seek to cheer another person up first think about how they might be feeling and why and then chose what to do next.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace you may come across many types of people. They may be your colleagues, your managers, your customers or clients. They may all react to things going wrong in different ways. When seeking to offer support and cheer someone up, it is important to recognise their emotions so that you may choose the right approach to take to avoid making any negative situation worse. The better you know the other individual, the easier it usually is to think about what will be most effective in getting them back into a positive emotional state. It might be to make a favourite drink for a colleague or to suggest they take a walk with you in a break to get some fresh air. It may be to make a call to check in on them and have a chat. Whatever approach, it is important to remember people will take differing amounts of time to ‘cheer up’ depending on the nature of what has gone wrong. Being able to cheer up other people in the workplace will also effectively show managers or leaders that you are a supportive colleague.

Why this skill step matters in the wider world

Things will go wrong for people that we know in our lives. Difficulties can arise for people when the thing that has gone wrong causes them to feel negative emotions which they feel they cannot change. If someone feels sad, angry or scared it can make them behave in ways that are not helpful to them or others around them. Being in a negative emotional state can stop them from wanting to continue with a task, even if they really should. It can stop them from thinking clearly about the situation they find themselves in. By being able to spot how someone else might be feeling when something goes wrong, you can try to cheer them up and help them feel more positive again. This can help you to build strong relationships with relatives, friends or others.

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!

  • Create a list or mind map of all the things you do that can cheer you up when you are feeling down when something has gone wrong. You may be able to share this with someone else to help them when they feel something has gone wrong for them.
  • If a friend or family member is having a tough time and something has gone wrong for them they may want to talk to you. Take time to listen to them. You could suggest that they do something with you that you know they will enjoy, such as going for a walk, or creating a meal together whilst you chat.
  • Write a letter, send a message or call a friend to remind them of all the positive things they have achieved and that have not gone wrong. Sometimes we all need reminding that things are not all bad.

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