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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 0, individuals will show that they can work positively with others. 

This is the first step in the skill of Teamwork, and provides the foundation of being able to work cooperatively with others towards achieving a shared goal.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • What working positively looks like 
  • When it is challenging to work positively
  • Why we need to keep trying

Reflection questions

  • What does behaving positively look like to you? 
  • When do you find it easier or more challenging to work with others in a positive way?
  • Can you give examples?

What you need to know

Working positively

Working positively is all about working with other people in a way that helps everyone to achieve what they want to. This includes:

  • Sharing things, like tools or materials 
  • Encouraging other people by saying positive things about what they are doing
  • Being pleasant, by being polite, kind and thoughtful about others 
  • Showing you want to the work to go well, by being enthusiastic

When it is difficult to work positively

Sometimes it is easier to work positively than at other times: 

  • If we are in a positive emotional state to start with, then we find it easier to work positively. This includes the feelings of calm, excitement or happiness.
  • If we are in a negative emotional state to start with, then we normally find it much more difficult to work positively. This includes if we are feeling sad, angry or scared.

How negative feelings might affect behaviour

If we are feeling negative emotions, we might end up showing the reverse behaviours to what we should:

  • We might refuse to share our tools or materials.
  • We might be discouraging to other people, criticising or being unfair about what they are doing.
  • We might be unpleasant, being rude to other people, or thoughtless in what we say.
  • We might moan about our work, or be pessimistic about how it is going.

Why we need to keep trying

None of us will be able to work positively all the time – sometimes we get our negative emotions get the better of us. The most important thing with working positively is to keep trying at it, and know that is what we are aiming for, even though sometimes we find it easier than at other times. 

We explore more about how to recognise and manage negative emotions in Staying Positive Step 0.


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Why this skill step matters in education

In every education setting, there is a need for us to work positively with others. The resources we have to use are not only for ourselves but often have to be shared. We normally learn alongside others, so getting on well with them is vital. Throughout education, you will often have to work with others successfully in teams, groups or pairs. You will have to encourage others, be polite and pleasant and keep trying to reach the end goal.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

Most people in the workplace will work with other people for part, if not all, of the day. Whilst each employee will have their own tasks and responsibilities these are likely to blend with the work of others to achieve a shared goal. For the work of the team to be achieved successfully, each person needs to work in a positive way with others. Conflicts and negative behaviour mean it takes longer to achieve their work or in some cases may lead to the work not being completed. In many roles, you will also need to work directly with customers and so need to get on well with them too.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In our social lives by playing games, sport and simply being with other people, we have to consider the needs of others around us and to share, take turns and behave in a positive manner towards each other. Those of us that are unable to do this may find that people do not want to spend time with us.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Teamwork, 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!

  • Play a board game or card game with a group of people. Take care to share the dice,or other equipment carefully, and take turns fairly.
  • Draw a picture with a friend. Ask your friend to go first and then take turns to add something new to the picture. For example, you could start with the outline of a face, or the shape of a building.
  • Make a poster to show the different ways you can work positively with someone else.
  • Reflect on when you feel that you get on positively with other people. What do you do, and what do you not do?

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Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should introduce the step by asking the learners the question of what they think it means to work positively, and to ask for examples. Depending on the age of the learners, that might be phrased as “taking turns” or “being friends with everyone in the class”. 
  • Learners can discuss these, and then create a set of posters or guidance about how they should work positively with each other. The language of how this is shared will depend on the age of the leaners.
  • The teacher should ask learners to think about when they struggle to work positively and what causes that. This can open into a conversation about how negative emotions affect working and how learners can manage them effectively. 

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced in the classroom by reminding learners regularly about what working positively looks like. Visual reminders could help reinforce this. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observation of learners working with others. A teacher can look for evidence that they are able to work in the positive ways outlined above, and then to make a judgement about the consistency with which they work positively.

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Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to all those who collaborate with others on tasks.

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

  • Explain to an individual why it is important to work positively in the work environment. To support these points, a manager might share some examples from their work experience which show the consequences of not working positively with others. 
  • Discuss what working positively looks like in the work environment. Here, some ideas for how to work positively might be discussed, including sharing resources, being polite, encouraging others and demonstrating you want the work to go well. 
  • Task an individual on an exercise which is about them learning to recognise the effects of working positively. To achieve this, a manager might task an individual to capture examples of working positively and its effects over a 2-week period.
  • Reflect with the individual on their observations. During these reflections, the manager an individual might explore some of the times it can be difficult to work positively.

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: During collaborations with others in our team with a focus on working positively with them. 
  • Working with customers or clients: Whenever we are interacting with customers, showing that we can keep trying to work positively even if things get tough and maintaining a polite, enthusiastic attitude. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed by observing the individual over time.  For instance:

  • A manager can check for evidence of this skill step in action as the individual works in different situations. They can then make a judgement about how consistently they work positively. 
  • A manager might seek out an opportunity to observe if the individual can work positively when it might be more difficult for them to do so – such as when they are fatigued or have received feedback which may cause them to feel negative emotions. Evidence of this skill step could be found in the individual demonstrating they can still work positively despite experiencing these emotions.
  • In some settings, these observations can be supplemented with customer or client feedback. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing the individual during a group exercise. Here a manager can look for evidence to suggest the individual can work positively with others.
  • The overall attitude of the individual can also be assessed through the whole interview process to see if they take a positive approach to work.

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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