Coaching Using the GROW Model

Coaching Using the GROW Model

April 05, 2019

The GROW model is a tool which can be used in many different coaching scenarios and is an effective technique often employed by both new and experienced career coaches. However, the successful application of the tool depends on several contributory factors, including effective questioning techniques and dynamic, flexible use of its key features. It offers a solid foundation which new coaches can base early sessions upon, but can also be viewed as a framework around which future tools, techniques and approaches can be developed.

How Does the GROW Model Work?

The GROW model was popularized by John Whitmore in his 1992 book Coaching for Performance and is still widely used today. GROW is an acronym based on the following key coaching phases of the technique:

  • Goals – Establishing the client’s ultimate "goals" and aims.
  • Reality – Taking time to really explore the client’s current "reality" or situation before discussing or taking any pro-active steps.
  • Options – What are the "options" or courses of action available to the client.
  • Will – What agreed action "will" be taken by the client to move towards the stated goal.

Example of the GROW Model in Practice

A (very) simplistic example of this would be that:

Client A’s goal is to move from her current role into a teaching career.
Both client and coach spend time discussing the current reality and it emerges that a) the client has no prior experience of the teaching environment and b) the client does not have the minimum entry qualifications to move into teaching at this stage.

Client and coach discuss the options for achieving the required qualifications and experience. (This may involve the client going away to research the areas discussed).

The client agrees that she will contact her local schools to arrange a fact-finding visit and apply for the required teaching courses.

The idea is that by working each issue/problem/required goal through these key stages, the client is encouraged to take responsibility for each action which moves him/her towards their stated goal.

Coaching Tips for the GROW Model

It is very important however to note that the GROW model does not exist in a vacuum and must be conducted using the correct questioning techniques to encourage a deeper awareness and ownership of issues. Goals and current realities must be fully explored. As Whitmore puts it:

“GROW, without the context of awareness and responsibilities and the skill of questioning to generate them, has little value.”

Whitmore provides a list of questions in his book which can be employed throughout coaching sessions, however it is essential that these are used as a guide and drawn upon at the appropriate time otherwise the sessions could become formulaic and stilted. The Mentoring for Change website cited in the sources section below makes reference to coaching questionning techniques together with a host of other coaching resources.

Popularity of the GROW Model

The popularity and ubiquity of the GROW model can be gleaned simply by conducting an internet search and seeing the many various contexts in which it has been employed. Indeed a joint survey by The Work Foundation and the School of Coaching revealed that 34% of respondents had stated a preference for the GROW Model - the highest of any single model cited in the responses.

Coaching With GROW

The Mentoring for Change website describes the GROW model as an effective means for the coach to find his/her way when "lost" in a coaching session – here GROW is seen as a framework to be pulled out of the coaching toolbox when things need to be re-oriented . In Teach Yourself Coaching, Vickers and Bavister point out that the model offers a “good starting point....but when followed slavishly may become a strait-jacket” limiting a coach’s versatility and flexibility.

Thus, it is advisable for coaches to employ the tool as is appropriate to the session; for instance, many clients approach their initial coaching sessions without any clear goals in mind and so some exploration of the current situation is often required before arriving at any stated aims to work towards. Here the first two principles of the GROW model become reversed.

Additionally, the model should not be allowed to force sessions towards premature conclusions by, for example, moving too quickly towards actions before all the options have been discussed and researched.

On balance it would appear that GROW is indeed a useful coaching tool but that it should be used as a starting point and not a coaching panacea. The model provides a valuable and clear pathway which can help both coach and client to locate their position within the coaching process but this must be navigated using the right techniques, allowing the coach to illuminate and animate the process as appropriate to each individual client.

About the author: Jane Williams is a student majoring in Human Resources Management. She currently works as an HR consultant for an IT startup, as well as a freelance writer at Jane follows the latest trends in the job market and enjoys using her expertise to help people land their ideal jobs. Here are links to my social media:

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