the grow model

The GROW Model

As a leader, you will understand the need to coach your team so that they may perform to the best of their ability. The key to becoming a great coach is to be genuinely interested, to have a process, trust your instincts – and to practice! If you are looking to develop and refine this vital skill, the GROW model – promulgated by Sir John Whitmore – is a simple yet powerful framework for structuring your coaching questions.


The GROW Model

The beauty of the GROW model is its simplicity.

The fact that it’s relatively easy to grasp the concept, and to start putting into practice, explains the model’s worldwide popularity as a coaching tool.

As a leader, one of your most important roles is to coach your team to do their best. Your starting point in the role of a coach should be that you want to grow performance and, in the process, help your coachee to take more responsibility, have a heightened awareness and to develop a greater sense of purpose.

GROW is an acronym that describes four steps in a deceptively simple process that can help you to achieve this aim.

G = goal, R = reality, O = options and = will.

The model, developed by Graham Alexander and first published by Sir John Whitmore* – is depicted in the diagram below and, as you will recognise, is presented as an ongoing process rather than a single event.


How to Use the GROW Model

To structure a coaching session using the GROW model:

G – Establish the Goal

At the outset of the discussion, the coach helps the coachee to determine what he or she (the coachee) would like to achieve. While there may well be a business result in mind as an outcome, the goal will, ideally, focus on attitudes, behaviours, tactics and techniques that are both compelling and within the coachee’s gift to control.  Wide open questions followed by silence, and accompanied by listening with intent to understand, are really useful skills to deploy for this step:

“What do you want to talk about?”

“What would you like to have achieved by the end of this session?”

“What’s top of your mind at the moment?”

R – Examine the Current Reality

In this step the coach and the coachee fully explore their starting point; they attempt to suspend their own judgement and take the time to describe the current reality as accurately and objectively as they can.

It may seem odd to be setting goals before the reality has been established, but goals that are set based purely upon a response to current reality are likely to end up simply addressing a problem; which is far more limiting than focusing on achieving possibilities. So it’s best to set goals at the outset; there’s nothing to stop the coach seeking to revisit goals once the current reality has been described.

Since this step involves forcing the coachee to think, the coach’s questions should be probing to establish a deeper awareness of self in the coachee:

“How much of this situation do you feel is within your control?”

“In what ways do you stop yourself from achieving that goal?”

“How do you feel when you know you have done a good job?”

“On a scale of 1-10, how strong do you believe your evidence is?”

“Would you revise your goals based on this new knowledge?”

O – Explore the Options

The purpose of this step is to identify as many different options as possible.  It’s important to resist the temptation to start passing judgement on the options at this point, and simply to think as broadly and creatively as possible about all potential courses of action.

Use of the question “What else could you do?” followed by silence works well here. And as the coachee’s energy and ideas start to flag the coach can seek permission to introduce some ideas of their own.

It’s entirely feasible that, if the first two steps of the process worked well, an answer has already announced itself and the coachee is itching to develop this. A decision will need to be made about continuing with the rest of the GROW process.

Questions that you can use to explore options are as follows:

“What else could you do?”

“What if you had more time?”

“If you were what would you do?”

 W – Establish the Will

This step translates the discussions so far into a decision from the coachee about what action(s) they are going to take. The coach can be tough with their questioning at this point, which can be helpful in shaping the decision into something that is robust, measurable and achievable. Crucially, however, the coach is not imposing their ideas. It is the coachee who is choosing – it is their engagement with the course of action selected that will have the greatest impact on the outcome.

Questions that the coach will use, include:

“What are you going to do?”

“When are you going to start?”

“If you are successful, have you achieved your goal?”

“On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to complete it?”  “What could you do to increase that score?”

“How can you ensure that you stay on track?”

And Remember…

…the key to becoming a great coach is to be genuinely interested, to have a process, trust your instincts – and to practice!


*Source: © 1992-2015 Coaching for Performance by John Whitmore (1992): distributed by Nicholas Brealey Publishing;

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