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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 13, individuals will show that they can evaluate where a plan has been successful or not, and identify some of the lessons to take forward from that. 

In the previous step, the focus was on how to reflect on progress while a project was underway and seek to make improvements along the way. This step builds on this by reflecting on the project once it is completed, drawing out what worked, didn’t work and what lessons could be learned.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning:

  • How to see if you have been successful
  • What tone to take to evaluating successes and failures
  • How to use open questions to uncover successes and failures in team and motivation, operational effectiveness, impact effectiveness, and unintended effects

Reflection questions

  • How do objective targets help you to judge whether you have been successful?
  • What do you need to have in place before you can have a good conversation about successes and failures?
  • What are the different elements of a team performance that you should evaluate?
  • What should you evaluate about task completion? 
  • How do you turn evaluation into learning?

What you need to know

How to identify success

Hopefully, your team set out with a clear goal that they were working towards, with targets and milestones to keep them on track. If all of this was in place, and you were able to successfully deploy the influencing and improving tactics of Step 12, then hopefully you have achieved your overall goal. 

However, there are always a great deal of unknowns when a plan is put together, unexpected external events can knock things off course, and even low-probability risks can come to pass. At the very least, though, having milestones and clear, objective targets should mean that the eventual result is clear and not a shock. 

Only thinking about this final result, though, is to miss out on a lot of valuable insight and learning that can be used in the future.

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Evaluating successes and failures

It is worth taking the same dimensions that we considered in Step 12 when considering what might have contributed to the overall success or failure of the project. The critical point though is that for this to be a useful shared reflection, it should be:

  • In a positive tone.
  • In a dedicated time when everyone is calm and has time. 
  • Seeking to learn lessons that can be used in the future.
  • Not about blaming individuals. 
  • Celebrating successes as much as learning opportunities. 

In this light, some of the questions that might form part of the debrief conversation might include:

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Team morale and motivation

  • How did motivation vary over the course of the project?
  • Were individuals excited by the goal and the tasks that they were given?
  • Were they equipped with the resources, tools and training for success?
  • Did individuals feel their successes were recognised, and were they supported through challenges?
  • Was there a sense of shared endeavour?

For each of these areas, the crucial follow-up question is to ask is what could have been done differently to boost team morale over the course of the project.

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Operational effectiveness

  • Did we have a clear plan and goals in place at the outset?
  • Were there operational challenges?
  • Did we have the right resources?
  • Were there challenges in completing the tasks? 
  • Were we responsive to changes and challenges along the way?
  • Did we use our milestones to make changes?
  • What would we do differently next time?
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Impact effectiveness

  • Was there a clear case for the impact we expected, and a rationale for why that should have been achieved?
  • Did we have assumptions that were incorrect?
  • What have we learnt about the impact of our approach?
  • How can we use that learning in the future?
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Unanticipated effects

  • Were there any unanticipated additional effects?
  • Should we have predicted these?
  • What effect did they have?
  • Could we have spotted them sooner, and addressed them?
  • How can we use this learning in the future?
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Advice for

Educators

Teaching it

To teach this step:

  • The teacher should remind learners that whether a project has ultimately been a success or a failure, it is always worth taking the time to reflect, evaluate what happened, and to draw out learning.
  • Learners can reflect on the environment that is needed for this to be a positive, helpful experience. 
  • The teacher can then remind learners about the broad areas of team and task performance that they might want to evaluate: team morale and motivation, operational effectiveness, impact effectiveness, and unintended effects. 
  • For each of these, learners could devise some of the open questions that they could use to help evaluate that situation. These can then be shared as a group.
  • Ideally, learners would then apply this approach to a debrief of a task that they have completed together, using this as an opportunity to consolidate their learning.

Reinforcing it

This step can be helpfully reinforced whenever learners are working on a task together. It can be useful after a task for learners to have a few minutes to evaluate how it went, and what they could learn, using some of the questions above. 

Assessing it 

This step is best assessed through observation of a team through a group task. The teacher is looking to see evidence that learners can accurately evaluate their own performance, and to do so in a positive, non-judgemental way, focused on learning. Teams should be able to share back what they have learnt after their reflection.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This skill step is relevant to any individuals who work as part of a team on a project.

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

  • Discuss with the individual why it is important to evaluate the successes and lessons from a project. Here, a manager might share some examples from their previous experiences which support the points on why this process can be helpful. 
  • Model a process of evaluating a project at its close to provide an individual with an example which they can follow. To achieve, this a manager might create a diagram with the broad areas of team and task performance that they might want to evaluate: team morale and motivation, operational effectiveness, impact effectiveness, and unintended effects. A manager can annotate by writing questions underneath each section which can be used to explore aspects of performance relating to each broad area. 
  • Task an individual on an exercise which is about developing open questions that can be used as part of this process of evaluation.
  • Reflect on the barriers to effectively evaluating the team’s performance. Here, a manager might recap the ideas on bias explored in earlier skill steps. They might also prompt the individual to think about what data sources they could use to support an objective evaluation.  

Practising it:

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

  • Working with colleagues: At the end point of a project, when there is an opportunity to evaluate what has happened, and to draw out lessons that can be of benefit to those in the team, and the wider organisation. 
  • Working with customers or clients: When reflecting on ways to deliver a better customer or client benefit, with a focus on capturing lessons we’ve learnt from our experiences.

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is best assessed through discussion. For instance:

  • A manager can check the individual understands why it is important to review the lessons that can be learned at the end of a project.
  • The manager can then observe or read a review of a project, where the individual has evaluated the successes and failures of the team, and has drawn out the lessons learned along the way. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

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

  • Questioning the individual on a team project they have previously been part of, and asking them to evaluate that project and the lessons that they took out of it.  
  • Reviewing an individual’s performance during an assessed exercise. This exercise might be about the individual showing the processes they would take to develop a product or process. Evidence of this skill step can be seen in the individual showing how they would evaluate successes and lessons at the end of the project.

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 school or college, you are likely to take part in group team activities or decision making quite frequently, as an element of your learning. However, doing something often does not ensure that you are improving your skills, you may simply be repeating mistakes. A successful evaluation of your work as a team will enable you and everyone in the team to learn lessons and improve your effectiveness in the future.

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace, you may be part of a team that only exists for a short period or for one task, but many teams are long-term: for example, a department within a large business or the whole workforce within a small organisation. The benefits of evaluating successes and failures can be considerable where the team is long term, as the lessons learned can be acted upon in the future, for example, to introduce agendas and minutes, or set milestones. However, in this situation, the ability to communicate and influence others in a constructive manner is even more important as poor communication can have a negative impact on relationships within the team.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

In the wider world where everyone in your group is present out of choice, for example, sports clubs and community groups, the communication of what worked and didn’t work has to be handled very carefully. Individuals may take exception to someone ‘telling’ them what’s wrong or needs to be improved. The ability to influence others in a constructive manner is essential.

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!

  • For the last project or team activity you completed, evaluate the successes and failures of the project, reflecting on what worked, didn’t work and lessons to be learned. Plan the framework for a conversation you could have with the team to communicate your findings.
  • For a project you are currently working on, review the team’s progress to date. If progress is on track, how has that been managed and achieved? If it is not on track, use the contents of this step to evaluate the reasons and identify suggested improvements. Plan how you can communicate this to the team. Practise this conversation and once you are confident, communicate your evaluations to the team.
  • Use all the questions asked in this step to review a current project. Present your findings to the team in a constructive manner. After the discussion, ask the team for constructive feedback on the way you delivered your findings. What will you differently next time, to address their feedback?

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