The GROW coaching model was developed in the 1980s by Sir John Whitmore, Graham Alexander and Alan Fine. It is described in the book Coaching for Performance by Sir John Whitmore. The GROW coaching model describes a framework for coaching and helps us to have more structured coaching conversations.
The GROW Coaching Model
GROW stands for Goals, Reality, Options, Will/Way Forward. It helps us provide some structure to a coaching conversation to help others achieve their goals or improve their performance. If you are unsure about what coaching is, take a look at our What is Coaching article.
We use the model by moving through the framework, using a mix of open and probing questions to prompt the person we are coaching to think and answer. This causes them to self-reflect, self-analyse and become more self-aware.
The first part of the GROW coaching model is Goals. In this part of the conversation, we need to help the person we are coaching to determine what they are aiming for. This gives them and us a direction to move in. If your coaching conversation is about performance, the goal part of the conversation can be focused on what they should be achieving (for example, their objectives and targets) rather than where they see themselves in the future.
Why not start with where we are now? Starting by looking at the future helps us create what is known as a 'gap'. Looking at the future first provides clear direction to where the person wants to be or needs to be before we look at what is holding them back.
Examples of Goals questions:
- What is the goal of this conversation?
- What do you want to achieve?
- What’s important about achieving that?
- Do you really want to achieve this? How much?
- When do you want to achieve that?
- How will you know you’ve achieved it?
The second part of the GROW coaching model is reality. Now we have established where they want to be or need to be; we now have them consider the current reality. This is where they are now. By doing this, we create a gap between current reality and goal, and it's this gap that they need to close to get to where they need to be.
Reality comes in 2 parts:
- What is the current reality - this establishes where they are now. It looks at where they are in relation to the goal they have
- Why - why does this reality exist. What is holding them back, or what is going on that is causing them to not achieve their goals, targets and objectives.
Examples of Reality questions:
- What is happening now? (What, where, when, how much)
- Who is involved?
- What have you done about this, so far?
- What results did that produce?
- What is happening internally / externally?
- What are the major constraints to finding a way forward?
- What is missing in the situation?
The third part of the GROW coaching model is options. Now we have a gap; we need to have them consider how to close it. Here we ask them to consider a range of options or actions that they could take to close the gap between reality and goal. As they come up with options, we should talk through each option and look at the benefits of that option, how long it will take to implement, if there are any costs involved and the advantages and disadvantages of each idea.
They must come up with the ideas themselves. By not doing so, they won't have ownership of the ideas and will find it difficult to commit to them. If they can't come up with any options, it may be that you haven't spent enough time in the reality part of the conversation, so you may need to jump back and ask some more probing questions to get closer to the root cause.
Examples of Options questions:
- What options do you have?
- What else could you do?
- What if … *THIS* happened?
- Do you have another suggestion?
- What are the benefits and costs of each option?
The final part of the GROW coaching model is Will or Way forward. Now that we have discussed some options to close the gap between reality and goal, we need them to commit to these actions. We need them to commit to a plan that has timescales and review points. For example, we could ask 'what will you do?' and 'when do you think you will have that done by?'.
Examples of Will/Way Forward questions:
- What are you going to do?
- What is the first step?
- What objections could you face?
- How will you overcome them?
- Who needs to know?
- Who will be affected?
- What support do you need? Who can provide this?
- How committed are you to take this next step?
- What would make you more committed?
- When shall we review this?
Applying the GROW Coaching Model
The model doesn't have to be linear. You can jump back a section where needed. The most important part is that the coach tries not to offer too much input. Instead, their job is to ask open-ended and probing questions to have the person being coached think more for themselves.
You can't prepare for a coaching conversation. You can at least have your data to hand should you need it and maybe prepare your first question, but the reality is that your questions will always be based on the previous answer, and this is why you can't prepare.
If you would like to learn more about the GROW coaching model and coaching skills, take a look at our Coaching Skills Training Course for more details.