The GROW model is one of the most widely used coaching models in the world today, with applications in both personal and professional contexts. It has become a popular tool for coaches, consultants, and business leaders looking to help their clients achieve their goals and unlock their full potential.
The GROW coaching model is a popular coaching framework that has been used by executive coaches, business coaches, and corporate coaches with leadership teams. The approach was created in the late 1980s by business coach Sir John Whitmore, alongside Graham Alexander and Alan Fine, who were also leaders in management consulting firms.
At its core, the GROW model is a framework of coaching that takes an experiential approach to helping individuals reach their goals. The acronym GROW stands for Goal, Reality, Options, and Will. These stages guide each coaching conversation, with each stage leading naturally to the next.
By focusing on establishing clear goals, exploring the current reality, identifying options for improvement, and creating an action plan for success, the GROW model has helped countless individuals achieve their potential.
The GROW model is now one of the world’s most popular coaching model for problem solving, goal setting, and performance improvement.
For example, if an internal communications person wants to improve their team’s communication effectiveness, they could use the GROW model to help them:
– Goal setting: The goal is to improve communication effectiveness in the team.
– Reality: Discuss current communication strategies and identify areas for improvement.
– Options: Come up with a list of ideas for how to improve communication and explore different ways to communicate.
– Way Forward: Identify specific actions to implement the chosen strategies, measure success, and discuss action steps for improvement.
Benefits of the GROW Model
The GROW model is an effective coaching framework and can be used to identify SMART goals to help individuals achieve personal growth and professional development. This means that this model can help managers and leaders improve their coaching abilities and develop a growth-oriented coaching mindset.
Throughout the process, open-ended coaching questions can encourage self-reflection and spark critical thinking, thus promoting personal insights, and ultimately leading to more positive behavioural changes.
Overview of the 4 Stages of the GROW Model
The model provides a four-stage framework of coaching that helps individuals develop a plan of action to accomplish their objectives. We will now take a closer look at the four stages of the GROW model and how they help foster a coaching culture that promotes personal growth and development.
The first stage of the GROW model focuses on setting clear and specific goals. This stage is fundamental to the success of the coaching process, as it sets the direction and purpose for the whole process. The goals set should be challenging and inspire individuals to strive towards self-improvement.
Goal setting is the foundation of the entire coaching process. This stage is about reflecting on what one would like their future to look like, identifying differences between that image and current reality, and setting specific, achievable goals to close the gap.
The process involves asking questions to help the individual clarify what they want to achieve, what new skills they want to develop, and where they want to be in the future. The questions asked during this phase are open-ended and help to create clarity and focus.
The goals set should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Creating SMART goals ensures that both the coach and the individual have a clear understanding of what they’re working towards. The coach helps the individual set challenging goals that will inspire them to strive towards self-improvement.
Example: A business coach could use the GROW coaching model to help a client with their career progression. During the goal-setting stage, the coach could ask the client, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” This question helps the coach gain an understanding of the client’s long-term goals. The coach can then help the client create achievable short-term goals that will lead to the long-term goal. The coach can also help the client identify the skills they need to develop to accomplish their goals.
- Ask open-ended questions to help the client explore their goal in detail
- Encourage the client to be specific and concrete about what they want to achieve
- Help the client identify how their goal aligns with their values and priorities
The Current Reality stage of the GROW coaching model is a crucial step in helping clients achieve their goals. It involves exploring the client’s current situation and progress so far, both from an outer perspective (strengths, challenges, issues) and an inner perspective (emotions, motivations).
This stage is all about being open-minded and non-judgmental to better understand the client’s situation. It’s essential to use open-ended questions to explore the client’s progress, identify what’s working well, and uncover any obstacles or resistance they may be experiencing.
For example, if a client’s goal is to run a marathon, exploring their current reality might involve asking them how much they’re currently running, what their training schedule looks like, and how they feel about their progress. Questions like “What have been your biggest successes so far?”, “What challenges have you faced?”, and “How do you feel about your progress towards your goal?” can help to uncover both the external and internal factors that may be impacting their progress.
Exploring the client’s current reality sets the foundation for the rest of the coaching process, as it helps the coach and client to establish a clear understanding of where the client is now and where they want to be.
- Ask questions to help the client assess their current situation objectively
- Help the client identify any barriers or obstacles that might prevent them from achieving their goal
- Encourage the client to reflect on what is currently working well and how they can build on that
Options for Change
After exploring the current reality in the GROW coaching model, the Options for Change stage focuses on identifying and exploring different strategies and solutions towards achieving the coachee’s goals. This stage is about brainstorming and considering different approaches that can lead to progress and success.
As a coach, your role is to help the coachee brainstorm and come up with a clear plan of action broken down into manageable tasks, with a timeframe attached to it. You can ask questions that will help the coachee make a plan and move towards their goal. These questions can explore different routes towards the goal, potential pitfalls, and support needed.
For example, let’s say a coachee’s goal is to improve time management. In the Options for Change stage, you might ask them questions like “What are some strategies you can use to improve time management?”, “What potential obstacles do you foresee in achieving this goal?”, and “Who can support you in implementing these strategies?”. By exploring these questions, the coachee can come up with a clear plan that includes strategies for improving time management, potential pitfalls to avoid, and a realistic timeframe for achieving this goal.
Overall, the Options for Change stage encourages the coachee to brainstorm different approaches to achieve their goal, and helps them to develop a clear plan with manageable tasks and a realistic timeframe.
- Encourage the client to think creatively and generate multiple options
- Help the client evaluate each option objectively, considering the potential benefits and drawbacks
- Support the client in selecting the best option based on their values, priorities, and resources
Way Forward / Action Plan
The GROW coaching model is an effective framework for guiding individuals towards achieving their goals. One of the most important stages of the GROW model is the ‘Way Forward’ stage, which involves creating an action plan to help the coachee move forward with their goal.
Here are the steps to create an action plan using the GROW model:
1. Start by defining the specific actions that need to be taken to achieve the goal.
2. Break these actions down into smaller, more manageable steps.
3. Prioritize the steps in order of importance.
4. Consider any obstacles or potential roadblocks that may arise during the process.
5. Determine how to overcome these obstacles and identify any necessary resources or support needed.
6. Establish a timeline for completing each step and the overall goal.
7. Finally, clarify how progress will be measured and what success will look like.
Creating an action plan in the Way Forward stage helps to provide momentum and clarity for the coachee. Breaking the goal into specific action steps makes it feel less daunting and more achievable.
We also need to consider potential obstacles and ways to overcome them helps to prepare the coachee for challenges they may encounter along the way.
To add an extra layer of accountability and support, the coachee can identify an accountability buddy to check in with regularly and provide encouragement and feedback. Overall, the Way Forward stage is an essential step in turning goals into reality using the GROW model.
- Help the client break down their action plan into specific, achievable steps
- Encourage the client to set a realistic timeline for achieving their goals
- Define metrics for success and celebrate progress along the way
Implementing The GROW Coaching Model in Practice
To implement the GROW coaching model in practice, coaches start by asking open-ended questions to help the coachee define their goals. Once the goals are defined, the coach helps the coachee identify the current reality by asking questions about where they are now in relation to their goal. The coach then helps the coachee identify options for moving forward and obstacles that may come up. Finally, the coach helps the coachee define a plan of action and a realistic time frame.
For example, if a coachee’s goal is to improve their time management, the coach may use the GROW coaching model to help them identify where they spend their time, explore options for better time management, and create a personal action plan for improving their time management skills.
Another example of how the GROW model can be used in a coaching session:
Let’s say a client wants to improve their communication skills at work. The coach can utilize the GROW model in the following way –
Goal – “What specifically do you want to achieve in terms of communication skills?”
Current Reality – “What’s your current communication style and what challenges are you facing in terms of communication?”
Options – “What different communication strategies could you try to improve your skills?”
Actions – “What specific steps can we take to improve your communication skills and when can you do them?”
Developing an Appropriate Coaching Process and Mindset
It’s essential to develop an appropriate coaching process and mindset to ensure the best results for clients. An effective coaching process involves creating a coaching culture that emphasises open-ended coaching questioning to bring out the best in clients. This can be facilitated by building strong coaching relationships and utilising a framework of coaching that encompasses personal actions and goal setting.
A positive coaching mindset focuses on empowering clients to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes, and utilising coaching strategies and coaching styles that help the client to achieve their goals. Effective coaching tools such as action plans and goal-setting exercises can also be used to enhance the coaching process and support clients in achieving their desired outcomes.
Utilizing Open Ended Questions and Active Listening Techniques
Active listening is essential in creating a strong coaching relationship where clients feel heard and understood. By listening attentively, coaches can fully comprehend their client’s situation, needs, and goals. This helps the coach to tailor their approach accordingly and provide the necessary support to achieve success.
Open-ended questions are also fundamental in the coaching process. These types of questions allow clients to explore their thoughts and feelings in-depth and gain insight into their situation. They provide a way to gather more information about the client’s current reality and help to identify their options for moving forward, leading to more effective action steps.
An example of how an effective coaching process and mindset can work with the GROW Model is as follows:
Goal – “What specifically do you want to achieve in terms of your career progression?”
Current Reality – “What skills or experiences do you currently possess that could help with your progression? What barriers or challenges do you see that may be holding you back?”
Options – “What different strategies could you try in terms of gaining new skills or overcoming the challenges you have identified?”
Actions – “What specific steps can we take together to help you achieve your goals and when can you do them?”
For instance, during a coaching session with a client who wants to improve their time management skills, the coach could ask “How do you feel about your current workload?” instead of “Do you have too much work to do?” The open-ended question encourages exploration and allows the client to delve deeper into their thoughts and feelings.
Setting Goals, Exploring Realities, and Generating Options Together
The GROW coaching model is a popular coaching approach used to help clients set and achieve their goals. Guiding clients through each stage of the model, coaches can help clients gain clarity on their desired outcomes, explore their current situation and generate options for moving forward.
In the Setting Goals phase, the coach can help the client to establish clear and specific goals. The use of open-ended questions can help to identify what is important to the client, and what they want to achieve. By involving the client in the goal-setting process, it ensures that the goals are meaningful to them and increases the likelihood of success.
In the Exploring Realities phase, the coach can help the client to identify any obstacles or challenges that may hinder progress towards their goals. Here, it is important to ask open-ended questions to gain a deeper understanding of the client’s current situation and find potential solutions.
Finally, in the Generating Options phase, the coach can help the client to develop different strategies and solutions to reaching their goals. By discussing possible options, the client can explore new opportunities and consider alternative ways of achieving their desired outcome.
For example, a business coach may use the GROW coaching model to help a client who wants to improve their communication skills. In the Setting Goals phase, the coach may ask open-ended questions to establish specific goals, such as “What do you want to achieve in your communication skills?” In the Exploring Realities phase, the coach may ask questions to identify any obstacles, such as “What challenges have you faced in communicating effectively in the past?” Finally, in the Generating Options phase, the coach may help the client identify different strategies, such as practicing active listening techniques or seeking feedback from colleagues.
Now that we understand how the GROW model works, let’s reflect on a case study where GROW has been used.
I would like to introduce you to John. John is a sales executive at a mid-sized software company. He is responsible for driving sales in his territory but has been struggling to meet his sales targets.
Using open questions, we have explored Johns GOAL. He wanted to work on increasing his sales performance and achieving his sales targets for the quarter.
John and I identified several factors that were impacting his sales performance. These included a lack of clarity around his target market, a limited understanding of his products, and difficulty building relationships with prospects.
We started to work on his options – these included
- Conducting market research to better understand his target market
- Receiving additional training on his products and services
- Building relationships with prospects by attending networking events and building his online presence
After discussion, we identified that John needed to get more training (option 2) as currently there was a knowledge gap. Although the other options were also important and would need to be addressed shortly afterward.
In the will/way forward stage, John and his coach developed an action plan to improve his sales performance. This included:
- Scheduling regular training sessions with the product team to improve his understanding of the company’s products and services
- Setting specific sales targets and establishing a timeline for achieving them
- Tracking progress toward his sales targets and adjusting his approach as needed
Over the next few months, John worked to implement the action plan and improve his sales performance. By the end of the quarter, John had exceeded his sales targets and received recognition from his company’s leadership team for his outstanding performance.
Overall, the GROW model was an effective tool for helping John identify his goals, assess his current situation, explore options for improvement, and develop a concrete plan of action. The GROW model provided a structured framework for coaching that helped John improve his sales performance and achieve his goals.
Whitmore, J. (2017). Coaching for performance: The principles and practices of coaching and leadership. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
Grant, A. M. (2017). The efficacy of coaching. Handbook of coaching psychology: A guide for practitioners, 1-26.
Starr, J. (2016). The Coaching Manual: The Definitive Guide to The Process, Principles and Skills of Personal Coaching. Pearson.