The Art of Strengths Coaching

R is for Helping People Learn By Focusing On The Importance Of Relationships, Relevance And Results  


Today many people talk about the new Rs in education. These include the importance of relationships, relevance and results. Some educators also focus on respect, reflection, resilience and rigour.

Writing for the website Edutopia, Bob Lenz describes how the schools he works with focus on these themes. Bob is the Executive Director of the Buck Institute for Education in Novato, California.

Here is an excerpt from his article. You can discover more via the following link. 

In my next several blog entries, I will highlight how we at Envision Schools interpret and use the new four R’s of education: rigor, relationships, relevance, and results. Broadly, we define these principles as follows:


We employ a rigorous project-learning college-preparatory curriculum that sets high expectations for everyone, and we give our students the skills and motivation to meet them.


Our schools are small, personalized learning environments. Class sizes are also small, and teams of teachers and peers provide students with academic and social guidance.


Education must have meaning every day. Our faculty creates curriculum around current events, personal backgrounds, and historical realities while emphasizing competency in twenty-first-century skills.


We focus on the results of student learning using multiple indicators so our teachers can adjust their practices and our schools can offer personalized support to students.

At Envision Schools, we believe that rigor does not mean simply taking college-prep, honors, or Advanced Placement courses.

We believe curriculum becomes rigorous when students are pushed not only to know information but also to apply and demonstrate their understanding of that information.  

We believe that requiring students to reflect on and analyze their thinking and learning might be the most challenging task you can require of a teenager.

Finally, in a rigorous school, students not only learn, do, and reflect, they also master such twenty-first-century skills as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, collaboration, project management, and written and oral communication.

This article concentrates on relationships, relevance and results. Looking back on your life, can you think of a time when somebody helped you to learn by focusing on these steps? They may have been a teacher, coach, manager, mentor or other person.

What did the person do to encourage you? How did they focus on what you wanted to learn? How did they help you to achieve success?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to take the following steps.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you were helped to learn by somebody focusing on relationships, relevance and results. 

Describe the specific things the person did to focus on these steps and help you to learn. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of them focusing on these steps when helping you to learn.


Many educators follow the old maxim that: “The learner learns what the learner wants to learn.” They also recognise that sometimes: “The learner learns from whom they want to learn.”

Good educators try to create an encouraging environment in which the student feels valued and able to explore. Henry Pluckrose followed this approach when running Prior Weston Primary School in London.

The school was successful because the staff believed in the educational – rather than engineering – approach to running a school. Whilst it was important to deliver certain results, these could be achieved by treating students as individuals.

Parents were asked, for example, to bring their child to school at least 12 times before the official starting date. Why? This was the child’s first introduction to an ‘institution’, so it was vital to get it right. By visiting the school – and tasting different lessons at different times of the day – the child was more likely to feel safe, valued and excited about starting.

The school became famous and attracted thousands of visitors each year. You can learn more about Henry and Prior Weston via the following link.

Henry Pluckrose

Adult learners are also more likely to learn if they have an educator, coach or mentor who takes an interest in them. During the past fifty years I have asked many people the following question:

“What has helped you to grow most in your life?”

Different people give different answers, but one common theme emerges. They often say:

“I had somebody who encouraged me. They showed an interest in me, listened and asked about my goals.

“They then shared ideas that I could use in my own way. They helped me to work towards achieving my personal or professional goals.”

Similar characteristics emerged when I ran workshops for people who wanted to become Trusted Advisors in their particular fields. I started by inviting the participants to do the following exercise.

Describe a person who acted as a trusted advisor for you at some point in your life.

Describe the specific things they did – the principles they followed – to act as a good trusted advisor.

Here is the exercise. This is followed by some of the themes that emerged from their answers.

My Trusted Advisor

They helped me feel the centre of their world. They listened to my story and clarified my goals. They played back what they believed was my picture of success. They then asked if it was okay to share their ideas.

They began by outlining what it was possible to control in the situation. They then focused on how I could build on my strengths, manage any weaknesses and work towards reaching my goals.

They shared the possible options for going forward. They explained the pluses and minuses of each option. They also, when appropriate, shared their knowledge and recommendations.

They underlined, however, that it was my decision and gave me time to reflect. They then, once I had made my decision, again explained the implications. They explained what I could expect to happen at each stage of the process going forwards.

They explained the various roles – their role, my role and other people’s roles – as we worked towards the goals. They then used their knowledge and skills to do what their best to help me achieve my picture of success.

Good educators often follow similar principles to build good relationships with their students. They also focus on the following step.


Great educators make the learning real, relevant and rewarding. They start by making people feel welcome and then clarify what they want to learn.

Sometimes they spark a person’s interest by providing a stimulating environment. Sometimes they provide an overview of the topics they can help the person to explore. Sometimes they simply ask some of the following questions.

“What would you like to learn about? Are there any particular topics or challenges it would be good to explore?

“What are the goals you want to achieve in your life or work? Are there any particular tools or ideas you would like to take away to help you to reach your goals?

“Bearing these things in mind, what for you would make this a successful session?”

Good educators also recognise that individuals learn best when the learning is:

Personal. It must relate to the person and their goals

Practical. It must be practical and provide tools that help the person to reach their goals.  

Profitable. It must be, in the widest sense, profitable and help the person to achieve their goals.

Adult learners, for example, want to learn things that can help them to achieve their personal or professional goals. They are then more likely to embark on the learning process of awareness, application and achievement.

Young people also often learn best if they have good relationships with their educators and see the relevance of what they are learning. They are then more likely to develop the rigour required to deliver results.

Today there are many educational projects that give young people the opportunity to follow their interests and develop what are called the Four Cs of Twenty First Century Skills. These are Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity and Communication. You can learn more about such skills via the following link.

Good educators pass on knowledge that people can use in their lives and work. Such educators study what works, simplify what works – in a profound way – and share what works. They then provide practical tools that people can use to follow these principles in their own ways.

Good coaches, for example, often like to watch the person in action or see examples of their work. Before passing on ideas, they ask themselves.

What are the person’s goals? What are the real results they want to achieve? What is their picture of success? 

What are they doing well? How can they follow these principles more in the future? What can the person do better and how? What are the skills they need to learn? 

What are the key messages I therefore want to give them? What are the practical tools I can use to help them to achieve their goals? How can I pass on this knowledge in a way they can use to achieve their picture of success?


Good educators help people to master certain skills, find solutions to challenges and reach their chosen goals. Different educators do this in different ways. One approach is to help people to go through the stages of awareness, application and achievement.

People start by clarifying the goal they want to achieve. They then raise their awareness about how to reach the goal. They gather information, learn from experts, study best practice or whatever.

Awareness is a good starting point, but it is vital to translate the ideas into action. People then apply the knowledge. They develop their skills and build on what works. They find solutions to challenges, reach their goals and gain a sense of achievement.

Some people, of course, become awareness junkies. They simply want to collect more ideas, but seldom translate these into action. This can lead to frustration, both for themselves and other people.

Many employers, for example, want their people to develop their awareness, but they actually pay for application and achievement. People who apply their learning – and who are persistent – are more likely to achieve their goals.

If you work in the coaching profession, for example, you may be judged by your ability to provide people with practical tools they can use to achieve success. One business leader expressed this sentiment in the following way.

“Many people are aware of the guiding principles for living an enjoyable life, leading a business or running successful teams.

“People can surf the web and see these principles repeated time and again. There are thousands of experts on organisations, for example, who want to market their latest idea.

“What leaders pay for, however, is application. They want people to be helped to apply the ideas in real life situations and deliver success.”

Different educators pass on this knowledge in different ways. Many focus on the 3 Is: inspiration, implementation and integration.

They create an inspiring environment, provide implementation tools that work and help people to integrate the learning in their daily lives and work. You will, of course, have your own way of helping people to develop.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to take the following steps.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to help somebody to learn by focusing on relationships, relevance and results. 

Describe the specific things you can do then to focus on these steps and help the person to learn.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of focusing on these steps when helping the person to learn.

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