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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 10, individuals will show that they can resolve unhelpful conflicts. 

In the previous step, the focus was on how to avoid creating conflicts with others. This step builds on this by exploring how to resolve disputes that have started – whether of the individual’s own making or not.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • Why you need to resolve conflicts 
  • How to prepare to resolve conflicts
  • Using conversation to resolve conflict 
  • Rebuilding trust 
  • How to help resolve the conflicts of others

Reflection questions

  • What do we mean by an unhelpful conflict?
  • How can we avoid these conflicts developing in the first place?
  • How can you resolve your own conflicts with others?
  • How can you help others to resolve their conflicts?
  • Do you have any examples of having done this?

What you need to know

Why you need to resolve conflicts

As we saw in Step 9, conflicts can emerge from all sorts of differences, misunderstandings, not feeling included or a sense of unfairness or injustice. These conflicts can escalate quickly through a downward spiral that includes:

  • Losing trust in one another. 
  • No longer seeing yourselves as having compatible goals – if one wins, the other must be losing.
  • No longer cooperating with one another.
  • Actively seeking to undermine one another.

The way to resolve a conflict is to stop this downward cycle, and the earlier that it can be stopped the better.

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Things to do in preparation

There are some basic things that you can do to resolve your own conflicts:

  • Do not ignore the conflict – they can easily get worse by being ignored.
  • Stop and try to think objectively about the situation – that means trying to stop your emotional responses drowning out the opportunity to think logically. Some ways of doing this were discussed in Staying Positive Step 4
  • Try to see things from the other person’s perspective – think about what it is that might have caused the conflict to start with. 
  • Do not think about blame – the focus should not be about who was right or wrong, but on trying to find a solution.
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Using conversation to resolve conflict

Then you will need to talk to the other person – this is the way to speak openly about the conflict, where it has come from, what the impact is on you both on your wider team, and how you might be able to resolve it. This might be a challenging conversation, so it is essential to go into it prepared:

  • Make sure you are feeling calm – do not start the conversation if you are not feeling in a good emotional place.
  • Expect that at some point in the discussion you might expect to feel negative emotions and be prepared with some strategies for reduce this stress.
  • Pay attention to the feelings that the other person is sharing, and make sure that you are respectful about what they are sharing – it is not easy for them either.
  • You can share the emotions you are feeling too, but try to avoid blame.
  • In the end, you are likely to both feel wronged, so trying to work out who to blame is not worth it, and will not resolve the conflict. 
  • Try to agree on a way forward and to work together well in the future.
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Rebuilding trust

The good news is that if you can resolve a conflict, then it can improve your relationship with someone else and build confidence. This means that you can get back onto a positive upward cycle again:

  • Building trust.
  • Seeing yourselves as having the same goals – if one of you wins, you both do.
  • Actively supporting one another. 
  • Sharing successes.
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Resolving the conflicts of others

As part of a team, it might be that at times you need to help resolve conflicts between other members of your team. In this situation, you need to set up a context where it is possible to have a good conversation. 

This means:

  • Encouraging team members to talk if they seem to be in conflict.
  • Set up a time and place so team members can talk without outside interruptions. If you are helping to facilitate this, make sure that each individual has time to speak and say what they feel they need to.
  • If you are facilitating, you can use active listening methods like summarising to help the conversation to be productive and to encourage the participants to engage (see Listening Step 8 for more on this).
  • Look for areas of agreement where individuals agree on elements of the situation, even if they have different perspectives. Do not take sides and try to encourage both sides to recognise how they better support the other in the future.
  • In the end, you want to reach a resolution where the challenges have been aired and learnt from.
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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should start by recapping what is meant by unhelpful conflict, how the spiral of negative conflict can emerge, and why this can be so damaging in a team.
  • Learners could reflect on times when they have ended up in this sort of conflict and whether they were able to resolve it.
  • The teacher should model some of the ways of helping to address and resolve conflict through discussion. This might be about walking through how they get into the right mindset and then talk through the issues without focusing on blame.
  • Learners could practice how to have these conversations through role play.
  • This can then be extended, for learners to practice how to facilitate a conversation to resolve a conflict between two of their peers based on a created scenario. 
  • At the end of the session, learners should reflect and capture some of the lessons that they have learned that they can use in the future. 

Reinforcing it

This step lends itself effectively to being reinforced in the classroom setting, where conflicts often emerge. Learners can be encouraged to take an active approach to resolving conflicts, or to use a peer to support those conversations. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observing a structured activity using role play where the learners are given different information and perspectives on a problem that has led to a conflict and have to resolve this between them. A similar activity could assess whether learners can facilitate a conversation between their peers to resolve a dispute.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to all those who work with others on shared work. 

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

  • Explain to an individual why it is so important to resolve unhelpful conflicts. If appropriate, a manager might use examples from their own experience to support the points they make.  
  • Show a diagram with a model of a process that can be used to resolve unhelpful conflicts – this can provide an individual an example they can follow. This process can be made up of a number of stages, which might include: prepare for the conversation, stage a conversation, and rebuild trust. A manager might walk through this model with an individual, annotating each section of the diagram with ideas on how this part of the process can create the effect of resolving an unhelpful conflict.  
  • Task an individual with a training exercise to practice using conversation to resolve conflict. This might take the form of a role play where the individual can practice using conversation to resolve conflict in a number of simulated scenarios.
  • Reflect with the individual about the conditions which might make addressing an unhelpful conflict more difficult – such as if we’ve had an unhelpful conflict with this person before or if it has been going on for a long time. Here, a manager might support the individual to reflect on how they might approach those situations differently.  

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: When we can improve the team by addressing an issue between two of its members.  
  • Working with customers or clients: When we need to repair a relationship that has been damaged or has broken down.  

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through observation and collecting feedback. For instance:

  • A manager can check how well a person has helped to resolve an unhelpful conflict by collecting feedback from stakeholders who were involved in this conflict. Evidence of this skill step can be found in how well the individual approached the situation and how much trust has been restored in this relationship. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Observing the individual during a role play exercise. The individual can be given information and perspectives on an issue that has led to a conflict between two parties and is tasked to work to resolve it. An observer can find evidence of this skill step in the way the individual uses conversation to resolve an unhelpful conflict, using the guidance above for reference. 
  • Questioning the individual about whether there have been times in their professional life when they have found themselves in conflict, or have had to resolve a conflict between others. The questioner should explore the approach that the individual took to resolve the issue.

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

In education, group discussions and team working will be common strategies for both learning and extra-curricular activities, whether in lessons, sport clubs or social activities. Teamwork involving conflict can be a negative experience, so the ability to prevent conflicts in a team and manage conflicts between others will ensure the experience is more likely to be a positive one for everyone. By effectively resolving conflict it shows you are able to rebuild trust and relationships in others which is important when working or interacting with the same people again.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

The output of a team activity at work will usually relate to something that benefits the organisation: for example, a reorganisation, new clients, or the recruitment of new employees. If conflict is allowed to build between members of the team then the decision making process will tend to be longer or the quality of the decision impaired, each being detrimental to the productivity of the organisation. The ability to manage and resolve conflicts between others will ensure the process and outcome will have a more positive impact. As in education, it also demonstrates to leaders that you are able to rebuild trust and relationships in others which can support working together in the future.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

Whenever a group of people work together on a common activity, for example a holiday or trip with friends, a fundraising activity or simply organising a party, each person will bring a different perspective and conflict may occur. The ability to not introduce any conflict on the first instance will be an asset to the group, but a greater skill and one that will be appreciated by others in the group, is the ability to resolve any conflicts building between others. No one would choose to have their social life and experiences spoiled by conflict.

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!

  • Review Staying Positive Step 4 and Listening Step 8 to ensure you have mastered other skills that will help you to achieve this step of Teamwork.
  • Think of a number of occasions when you have experienced or witnessed conflict between yourself and other people at school, college or work. For each one, can you recall the reason for the conflict? Try to record the perspective of each person involved. Did the conflict build or was it resolved? Did anyone intervene to minimise or resolve the conflict? What was the outcome? After learning the elements of this step, can you identify anything you could have done to improve the situation?
  • Ask two friends or family members if the will role play a conversation and identify a topic for them to discuss that is likely to cause conflict, for example, whether a sport team deserves promotion, whether a family member should be given a new car, perhaps a current political issue. Use your listening skills to identify the perspective of each and practise facilitating the conversation so resolve their conflict.
  • Watch a political debate on the internet or television. If you were involved in a conversation what could you say or do to help resolve a conflict developing?

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