The GROW Coaching Model for intentional change
How to use the GROW coaching model
People have coached each other for years, with the vogue for corporate coaching starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Most people can coach to an extent and some quite naturally. However, the best results appear to come from a deliberate use and order of coaching questions. Over time, the evidence supporting a coaching model of excellence grew and the GROW coaching model was born as a tool for creating intentional change.
The birth of the GROW coaching model is generally accredited to Sir John Whitmore and Graham Alexander in the early 1990s. Whitmore first published it in his book Coaching for Performance in 1992 and even though the model had been around for many years before it was christened GROW, it has now become one of the core coaching models in practice.
The premise is simple and you might ask where the skill of the coach comes in if the model is so simple. As a model for intentional change, GROW can be used as a framework for almost any type of change required, however in certain circumstances it has limitations and that is part of how a skilled coach adds value to the coaching sessions and outcomes.
The first thing the GROW coaching model does is to break down the change you want to create into chunks. Rather than trying to keep all of the ideas spinning around in your head, the model encourages you to think about the different facets of the challenge you have chosen to face.
There are the four steps to the GROW coaching model
Step 1 – G is for GOAL
A core tenet of coaching for performance or intentional change is that the client has a goal in mind – something specific that they want to achieve. I’ve previously written about how to set a great goal and the SMART acronym for Specific, Measurable, Action Oriented, Realistic and Time bound.
Here are some questions that I might use in a coaching session
- What do you want to achieve by working with a coach?
- When do you need to have it done by?
- How will you know you’ve reached your goal?
- What will reaching your goal give you?
- How realistic is that goal?
The more specific a goal is, the more comprehensively expressed it is and how well it speaks to the client’s core motivations all contribute to the likelihood that they will to achieve their goal.
Step 2 – R for Reality
Exploring reality is about framing the change the client wants in their life. If the goal is ‘X’ on a treasure map, then reality is the ‘where are you now’. I always encourage people to spend a decent amount of time in the reality phase and it often requires tools to help raise a client’s self- or situational awareness. One such tool could be a DISC profile that explores behavioural and communication styles and preferences.
Questions for the reality phase could be
- What are your challenges?
- What’s stopping you move forward?
- What have you done so far?
- What are you tolerating at the moment?
- How far off does the goal seem to you?
- How well equipped are you to move towards your goal?
- What has to change for you to succeed?
Step 3 – O for Options
With a goal established and firmly grounded in reality, the next stage is to let the conversation go wide. A good coach is going to foster the discussion and provide the client with freedom to use their imagination. The premise is to explore what you could do to move forward, rather than what you will do. It’s often better to focus on quantity of options rather than quality. Refining the actions comes later.
Questions for the option phase
- What could you do to get there?
- What has worked in the past?
- How could you use your current experiences or capabilities?
- What’s missing from this story?
- What else?
Options is also the place where clients often feel stuck and the response I get is “I don’t know”. As a coach, it’s tempting to offer advice here, but that breaks the coaching code of conduct, as I’m proposing my solution and my job is to help the client find their own solution.
A change of perspective or permission to hypothetically break the rules is often needed here, so I might use questions such as these to create that freedom
- If you had all the money in the world, what would you do next?
- If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do?
- What would your best friend tell you to do?
- Have you been in a similar position before? What worked then?
- What hasn’t worked before? What if you did the exact opposite of that?
Step 4 – W for Will or Way Forward
By this stage, the client should be sitting on a big pile of ideas that they could do. Some practical and some fantastical or purely theoretical. These need refining down into a list of actions that they will do and then specifically when, where and with whom will they do it.
- Of all the things we’ve said you could do, what will you actually do?
- Where’s the obvious place to start?
- What can be ruled out for now?
- What comes next?
- What if something doesn’t work?
- What do you need to do to make that option work?
- What support do you need to get that done?
- What obstacles might you encounter?
- How will you navigate around those obstacles?
- Exactly when are you going to do that action?
- How will you know you’ve completed it?
- How will you keep yourself accountable to these actions?
Finally, a sense check should wrap up the session
- If you do these things, how well will that help you achieve your goal?
- Is your goal still the right goal, or does it need tweaking?
- On a scale of 1-10, how motivated are you to undertake these actions?
- What will you do if you need plan B?
Capturing these actions in written form is essential. There’s good evidence to suggest higher levels of completion are achieved when a goal is written down, actions are prioritized, and some form of accountability checks are built into the actions.
The GROW coaching model, whilst flexible, isn’t perfect. One of its challenges is that it is goal and action oriented. That may make it too process oriented for some coaching activities, with the process overtaking the intent or outcome and the focus on the ‘doing’ rather than the ‘being’.
It also doesn’t support more philosophical activities, where a thinking or reflective process is the outcome, because that is much harder to quantify. Not every session may result in an action so it’s important that your coach and the techniques used enable you to fully explore thoughts feelings and intentions around what is really important to you.
It may be that raising awareness may be a suitable outcome from a session and the action becomes reflecting on that realisation. Over the following weeks the client is then able to move forward.
The advantage of the GROW coaching model in the structure it provides is also its downside. The skill of the coach is to use this structure, whilst listening and allowing the client to guide the conversation. It’s my ability to use my intuition, follow your energy and ask a great question to help you fully explore what’s important to you.
Intrigued? Want to have a go at coaching? Try a FREE, no obligation coaching session with me and let’s see if we can create some change in your life.
- Coaching for Performance: The principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership – Sir John Whitmore
- Supercoaching: The missing ingredient for high performance – Graham Alexander and Ben Renshaw
- Co-active Coaching: The proven framework for transformative conversations at work and in life – Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl and Laura Whitworth