The GROW coaching model is an action oriented framework that can be used in structuring coaching sessions, performance reviews, conversations, and goal setting sessions. This simple structure breaks coaching sessions and conversations into four phases: Goal, Reality, Options, and Will.
Coaches use the GROW model because it is easy and flexible. As a coach you will continue to use the model because you will see increased productivity, motivation, and engagement of your coachee.
Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.Robert H. Schuller
The GROW model was initially developed by Alexander Graham and then popularized by Sir John Whitmore.
What is the GROW Coaching Model?
The GROW model is a map to help guide the coaching session from goal to action plan creation. The structure assists the team (coach and coachee) in staying focused on the task at hand. It helps identify a purpose for each coaching session. Then the model helps work through what’s getting in the way of achieving the goal. After brainstorming ideas, it guides the team to an action plan.
The model follows a flow of Goal, Reality, Options, and Will. The coach uses open ended questions during the coaching sessions to help direct the conversation through the framework.
The objective of the GROW framework is for the coaching conversation to move from one stage to the next as a guide for the coaching interaction. However, the model also allows the coach to return to the Goal stage if something new is uncovered during the Reality stage, as an example.
The GROW model of coaching is so practical and elastic that it is used as the foundation for other coaching models.
These coaching model variations include:
|Goal Based Models||Solutions Based Models|
|T-GROW – Downey, 2003||OSKAR – Jackson & McKergow, 2002|
|I-GROW – Wilson, 2011|
|CLEAR – Hawkins’s & Smith, 2007|
How to Use the GROW Coaching Model
The GROW Model is an action-oriented framework for structuring coaching and mentoring sessions. GROW is an acronym for Grow, Reality, Options, and Will. Let’s review the GROW model stages.
Stage one is establishing a clear goal. What does the coachee want to achieve? This goal can be a development goal, a performance-related goal, a decision to make, or a problem to solve.
The goal should be formatted as a SMART goal. Whatever the goal, it needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timebound.
The coach’s role is to support the coachee and help them articulate the goal.
The coach can help the coachee identify the goal by asking open-ended questions such as the following.
- What outcome would you like to achieve?
- Why do you want to change?
- When you achieve this goal, what will the benefit look like?
- How will you measure success?
Assess the coachee’s actual state of reality once the goal has been defined. Help the coachee explore their true strengths and weaknesses.
Open the coachee’s mind to what is going well that can be built upon. What progress have they made toward the goal to date? Additionally, make notes if the coachee and coach realize new information regarding the reality of the existing state.
If the reality is different than determined during goal setting, go back and reassess the goal. It may need to be changed.
Example questions the coach can use to help the coachee uncover the reality of the situation:
- What progress have you made to date?
- Can you tell me what skills or competencies have contributed to your success so far?
- Define what is required of you?
- Can you articulate what is keeping you from having reached that goal already?
- What obstacles/challenges are you experiencing?
Once the reality of the existing state has been identified, the coach and coachee can begin brainstorming options to close the gap. Focus on helping the coachee brainstorm multiple options and be solution focused.
The coachee may focus on one option that is most comfortable for them. Don’t let them become singularly focused. If this happens, they may miss an opportunity with better long-term potential.
The coach can help broaden the coachee’s analysis by asking any of the following example questions:
- Have you identified different ways you could approach this?
- What could be your first step?
- How can you break this up into smaller steps?
- If you could start all over, what would you do?
- What would happen if you did nothing?
- Who could help you achieve your goals?
During this stage of the GROW coaching model, the coach will help the coachee identify a specific set of actions and commit to them. It is essential to refine the options during this stage.
Clarifying and refining the options allows the coachee to visualize the particular steps to achieve their goal. This increases the probability that the coachee will take steps to make the changes. Similarly, voicing their actions and committing to them in a conversation with a coach increases the likelihood of success.
As a coach, your role during this stage is to help the coachee obtain absolute clarity over their specific future steps and help them commit to these actions. This step solidifies the SMART goals.
Questions you might ask to help during this stage:
- Given your options, what will you do next?
- What specific steps will you take?
- Who will be able to support you?
- What will success feel like?
- How will you make sure you start the process?
- What is your plan to celebrate success along the way?
Although the GROW model is set out in stages, you can go back as needed. How and when you move from one stage to another will depend on the coachee’s needs. Be flexible and change as you identify new information.
Why Use the GROW Coaching Model?
GROW coaching skills are simple and straightforward for the coach to master. Using open ended questions in an effective way helps the coachee become more aware and promotes more responsibility. This leads to increased accomplishment of goals.
GROW coaching improves engagement, motivation, and performance. To understand why this is essential, read more about motivation and what gives people the will to perform.
To better understand the GROW coaching model’s impact on performance, let’s review some data:
- Companies with dynamic sales coaching programs achieve 28% higher win rates. (Human Capital Institute)
- 51% of companies with a strong coaching culture report higher revenue than their industry peer group. (Human Capital Institute)
- Sales reps with 30 minutes or less of sales coaching per week receive win rates of 43% (Human Capital Institute)
- Over 70% of employees who’ve received coaching came out of their experience with improved work performance, better communication skills, improved relationships, and increased self-esteem. (ICF)
Consequently, we coach to improve individual and team performance. As a result, this leads to better engagement, higher productivity, and builds stronger people. Coaching tools, like the GROW coaching model, are important because they give the coach a guide to follow during the coaching session.
Our emphasis is on execution, not winningPat Summitt – Former Women’s Basketball Head Coach, University of Tennessee
When to Use the GROW Coaching Model
Coaches can use the GROW model in a variety of situations.
- One on One Coaching Sessions – Some of the more common scenarios to use GROW would include when delivering performance reviews, during goal setting sessions, and while mentoring others.
- Team or Group Coaching Sessions – Though not as common, the GROW model can work well in a group setting. For example when working with a team to establish common goals or to align on a vision for the future.
One on One Coaching Sessions GROW Example
In most cases you will be applying the GROW model in one on one coaching sessions. Let’s review an example to illustrate how to put the coaching model into practice.
Example One-on-One Coaching Session Using GROW Coaching Model
Sam wants to be promoted to a Team Lead position. He has been in his current role for 7 months and is exceeding expectations in job knowledge. As a coach, what questions can we ask about his goal to ensure we understand his motivations?
- Why do you want to be a Team Lead?
- What skills/competencies do you need to work on to achieve this goal?
- Do you have enough time and resources to achieve your goal?
Sam and I start by examining his current reality. Sam explains that he’s been in his current job for less than a year but that he joined the team with more experience than his peers.
He has both knowledge and experience which his performance feedback shows to be stellar.
Also, he understands that his short time in his current position works against him. He also identifies a gap in coaching his peers which would be more important in a Team Lead role.
Some of the questions I asked to learn more about Same’s situation:
- What do you see as the biggest barrier to moving to the next level?
- How does your previous experience help you?
- Can you provide an example of what coaching a peer would look like?
- How close or far are you from achieving your goal/overcoming your obstacle?
- What opportunities do you have to provide feedback and coaching to your peers in your day to day activities?
Now that Sam understands his current situation, how do you help him brainstorm options to close the gap? Do you see his options to gain the skill to mentor or coach his peers?
- What can you do to close the gap?
- Which areas do you have less experience than might be needed in the Team Lead role?
- What resources do you need to achieve your goal?
- Who do you need support from to achieve your goal?
We have identified that Sam needs the opportunity to mentor his peers. Sam and I have used a SMART goal template to create a measurable action plan.
- How will we measure success?
- What will your first step be?
- How long will it take to achieve your goal?
- How will you stay committed?
Team Coaching Sessions GROW Example
Teams and organizations need to establish goals. They also benefit from having a process in place to ensure they are creating the right goals and have a plan to execute. The GROW coaching can be used in a similar fashion with teams as it is used with individuals.
Example Team Coaching Session Using the GROW Coaching Model
A Sales team is in Q3 and projected to miss their yearly goal. They need to reset monthly targets to increase the run rate for year end. How do they structure this as a team? What questions do they ask?
- Can we meet the yearly target as a team?
- Do we all want to achieve the goal?
- Is the goal understood by everyone on the team?
- What is the reality of the situation?
As a team, look at the data and understand how far away you are from goal. Identifying who is on track, who can do more, and who will not be able to achieve goal.
- Why are we not on target?
- What are the obstacles?
- Are additional resources are needed?
- Will collaboration from other departments help?
- Why haven’t you reached that goal already?
As a team, create options to achieve the goal. Each member should be engaged and challenge the status quo. Collaborate, debate and decide which options to purse. Since there are multiple team member’s, there will be many options.
- What has worked in the past?
- Who can achieve results over goal?
- What will help the members under performing?
- What additional resources do you need to achieve your goal?
Daft a plan of action for the team. each team member should commit, in writing, to the plan. Draft it in SMART Goal format so there are many check-in points for the team. Have a solid communication strategy so the the energy and commitment builds and is continuous.
- After the plan is drafted, ask the team on a scale of one to ten, how motivated are you to achieve your goal?
- What more can I or leadership do to help you achieve your goal?
- What actions are you least excited to take?
How to Develop Skills to Maximize Success Using the GROW Coaching Model
You can learn effective GROW coaching model skills by reviewing the How to Use the GROW Coaching Model section above. Familiarize yourself with questions associated with the GROW model stages. Follow the steps below to begin using the GROW coaching model:
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.Henry Ford
Step 1: Learn the GROW Coaching Model and Best Practice Questions
- Read Coaching for Performance Fifth Edition: The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership. It covers each of the four phase of the GROW model in greater depth.
- Review the example questions covered above and make your own list of questions. Having some common questions handy can make navigating the coaching process easier as you learn.
Step 2: Practice Common Scenarios with Peers
We have identified that the GROW model can be used in coaching sessions, goal setting, appraisal reviews, and meetings. Take that knowledge and develop scenarios you and your peers or mentor can use to practice GROW coaching skills.
- Draft an example training scenario for appraisal feedback, goal setting, and a difficult “below expectations” discussion.
- As the coach, mentally prepare for the conversation. Practice active listening skills. Having the coachee do most of the talking will be one of the objectives.
- Prepare and practice open ended questions. It can be easier said than done to use open ended questions. Leading questions is a default for many coaches because we come into coaching with an idea of the goal. You do not want to go into the discussion with a preconceived notion of a solution.
Step 3: Use the framework immediately in coaching
Use the GROW coaching skills. As they say, use it or lose it. As a coach, I often find it challenging to make time to coach. It sounds odd since I know that adds the most value to the bottom line over time. Force yourself to schedule a coaching sessions and use the GROW skills.
Additional Management Skills to Leverage in Your GROW Coaching Session
The GROW model will do the heavy lifting during the coaching session. As the coach, you can prepare the setting and the coachee to maximize success. Set the scene by:
- Preparing a quiet room with no distractions
- Scheduling time on the coach’s and coachee’s calendars
- Putting your phones away
- Preparing all materials needed up front
To optimize the GROW coaching sessions, leverage the following three management skills:
Discuss the goal and expected outcomes of the conversation.
- The coach might ask the coachee to identify what they expect from the session.
- Then the coach will communicate what they expect.
- There can be a review to ensure both goals were met at the end of the session.
Be prepared to discuss what’s going well and areas of opportunity. Direct the coachee to focus on the pluses and negatives. Then build off the positives.
Use SMART Goals
Using SMART goals allows for achievable, bite-size milestones to be set. This will make follow-through by the coachee and coach more straightforward and more attainable.
Be Prepared to Change
The flexibility of the GROW model is one of the many reasons it is so effective. As you learn more about the reality of the coachee’s skillset or behavior, you can help them understand if the goal needs to be changed. This potential change is something the coach and coachee need to be prepared to identify. This is easier said than done since we go into the process with a goal. And change can be difficult for both.
Setting the stage effectively for the coaching session and then executing the GROW model as an experienced coach will lead to great success for the coachee.
And Away We Grow
Use the GROW coaching model to increase performance, results and coach people. Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their performance. Remember, coaching is a skill you can develop.
Explore more of the best coaching models in our ultimate guide including: