The GROW model is a coaching framework used to to help coaches around the world structure coaching sessions and achieve targeted results. The model, which is an acronym for Goal, Reality, Options, Will or Way forward, has grown since the 80s to become one of the most popular and one of the most effective coaching models adopted by coaches globally.
Who Created the GROW Model?
The GROW model was introduced to the big public in 1992 by Sir John Whitmore, in his book “Coaching for Perfomance”. The model, developed in the 1980s by Whitmore, Alan Fine, and Graham Alexander, ‘grew’ out of the Inner Game coaching method developed by Tim Galley for sports. What had happened was that John Whitmore a sports car racer, supported by his colleagues Graham Alexander and Alan Fine had started studying and analysing how coaches used the Inner Game in sports coaching. Together they identified patterns and theories that were developed and adapted for corporate coaching to become what is known as the GROW Model framework.
Today, the GROW model is used to reach clearly defined goals by assessing the situation and evaluating the available options, leading to well-guided results. It helps you think of your objective as a journey and see how you can conceptualize each checkpoint of this journey that leads you to make only the right decisions to achieve that goal.
Many organizations, as well as individuals, use this framework to drive their development. And its popularity is proof of its success amongst all other goal-driven coaching frameworks. However, what we need to make this model a success is an understanding of the four stages of the GROW model, and its proper application.
The Four Stages of the GROW Model
At the conceptualization of the model, the originators came up with the term GROW, an acronym that represents the four conceptual stages of the model – Goals, Reality, Options and Will.
One useful tip when coaching is to see the four stages of the model as different segments within the entire coaching session. This way, you can approach each stage totally focused on guiding your client through it.
Now, we should look at each stage, why they are important, and how coaches should approach them.
The first thing you do as a coach when using a GROW coaching model in a session is to define the goals of that session first.
Your clients’ goals signify the results they hope to achieve in that session. The goals include the things that your clients desire, want, need to have, or require for an even larger goal.
As a coach, your client’s goals are very important. They allow you set a clearly defined path for the session so that you and your client do not go off track. With clearly defined goals, you can always say: “We had hoped to figure out this point at the end of the session”, putting your client back on track when they stray off.
You should set the goals for the session by asking the right questions.
Here are some typical questions that you can ask in the Goal stage to obtain clearly defined goals from your client.
- What important issues do you think are relevant today?
- On what subject would you feel unfulfilled if we do not treat it today?
- What would indicate that we had achieved success today?
Always encourage your clients to speak, and when they do, reply with follow-up questions in order to fully understand these set goals.
The most common worry among coaches is how to know if they have a clear goal set for their GROW session. The answer often lies in the construct of their goal.
Goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound – however, they should be motivating and inspiring as well. The goal should be coined in a way that drives your client to want to achieve them.
An example of a smart and inspirational goal is: “We want to increase sales revenue by 15% by the end of the fourth quarter.” If you compare this goal to something like “We would like to increase our revenue” or “We want to increase our collective revenue by 100%,” you will find that the gravity of the latter declarations is less inspirational than the former because they are either too loose or unrealistic.
Also, when goals are set with the SMART constructive criteria in mind, they become easier to understand and follow through. In most cases, inspirational goals are capable of keeping the session steady on the rails. As it stands, you and your clients have clear and inspirational goals driving you, and what becomes next is to look at where your client currently stands.
This stage helps your client look at their situation. This is where they find out where they currently stand, how they got there and how far they are from their desired goals.
Confronting reality is at the core of the GROW model. It is at this segment that you can help your client find themselves, by asking them questions that bring them to self-awareness.
It could foolhardy to try and jump to solve a problem without first considering your current standings. And at this point, you would want your client to get into several areas of their lives as it concerns the current set goals of the session. Let them feel comfortable, and talk about their history, and how they got to this current stage.
Ask questions like:
- What is happening right now?
- How do you feel about these goals?
- What steps have you taken to try and reach your set goals?
- What resources do you have available?
- Do you see any obstacles that prevent you from starting to move ahead?
The answers you obtain from these questions can put a lot into perspective. Your clients can now discover how they currently are, look into how they got there, and see how far they are from achieving their goals. Of course, looking that far into the future with self-realization, they will definitely see some opportunities there. The session can now ease into the next stage, as you and your client begin to consider your options.
Now that you know where you stand, your strengths and weaknesses, it is time to look into how you can get to where you want to be.
There will be several options that hold the potential to put your client on the right path to their chosen goal. However, some of these solutions have only just been formed while your client was in the Reality stage. They haven’t truly considered all the possibilities of that option, and what it would mean if they were to go with it.
It is at this stage that you help them explore all their options in order to find the best one that aligns with the goal they want to achieve. But first of all, they have to come up with all the options, and you can always suggest that they brainstorm.
While brainstorming, allow anything to be permissible. Listen to your client’s suggestions with an open mind. It would encourage them to be even more open.
However, while you come up with options, you might find Realities that were not considered in the previous stage appear. You can always choose to treat them if they are relevant to your Goal. They can always be useful in considering the rest of your options as you go.
For each option that you consider, ask your client questions like these:
- What are some merits of choosing this solution?
- What could be some possible drawbacks?
- Do you think you have sufficient resources to carry this option? Mention these resources.
- Are there already turning gears that need to stop for this option to be in motion?
- Can you afford to stop those turning gears?
- Are there any other options you can think of asides from this?
Always remember to weigh their options against their current realities. Always test the feasibility and value of each option, but never discard them.
Ensure that you guide them through all their options, and then weigh them against each other – “Do you prefer this option to the last one you mentioned?”
At the end of this stage, you must have dissected every option enough to have an idea of how it would play out. Now, you can still hold on to them as they proceed to the next step where they will decide on the way forward.
This stage is often called the Way Forward stage, for obvious reasons. It is at this stage that your client chooses one option that will lead them to their goal.
You can assist them in making this choice by asking them the same questions you asked at the option stage but replacing probability with certainty.
- Will you be able to deal with certain drawbacks?
- Will you be willing to make these changes?
- When the time comes, will you have the resources ready?
Being the coach, you must align your client’s preferred Option with their Realities and Goals. In as much as it aligns with their previously defined goal, always respect their decision, no matter the option they choose.
However, the process is not over by just mere selection. Your client needs to be able to commit to their option to find their way forward. They have to be able to pick this option and say “I will do this” and begin to do it.
To find commitment, you might have to go into the implications of their preferred options and ask them how exactly they would deal with obstacles, and how specific actions would bring them towards their goal.
- Would you be willing to try again if your initial digital campaign doesn’t yield results?
- Do you believe now that restructuring would bring you any closer to your goal?
You should also ask questions about how they feel about their decision, to evaluate their conviction in their decision.
- How do you feel about the decision you made today?
The main purpose of the GROW model is to bring about a resolution for your client. They have chosen coaching as a form of therapy to find change or relief. However, there are still other forms of benefits to both clients and coaches at the end of this process.
Benefits of the GROW Model
Effective Communication: The GROW Model aids effective communication between the coach and the coachee. Depending on the situation, effective communication of ideas and contributions could foster better relationships within teams. Better relationships could lead to increased productivity and all-around success for the team.
Simplicity: Many leaders and coaches have found this method very resourceful because of its simplicity in practice. One can easily introduce and practice the GROW model with their team members, and reach quick and effective results easily.
Adaptability: The GROW model is easily adaptable. It can be applied in several settings. Its adaptability is what has made it a widely used coaching model today. As mentioned earlier, this framework can be used in the workplace to challenge team members to be creative, set collective goals, be self-aware and select the most effective option to reach those goals.
Self-awareness: At the reality stage, many clients are forced to do a self-assessment, and at the end of the session they may discover a side to themselves or their business that they never before considered. The GROW model allows for a sort of self-analysis that is only healthy to make successful decisions.
Confidence: The GROW model could be used to promote confidence in an individual or group. By being asked the right questions and providing the right answers, people are able to find themselves being confident in reaching their goals. The GROW model allows people to be able to visualize their goals alongside other elements that they would require to achieve them. Now being able to see this picture clearly, they could be motivated to give their all and ensure that they attain their full potential.
One more thing that we should note is that the GROW model is great, but it isn’t absolutely perfect. In fact, some industry leaders say it lacks one very vital element which is Accountability. The Will Do stage does a lot to bring a client to commit. However, in some cases, that isn’t enough. Coaches should be able to find a way to hold their clients accountable to their commitment, as only with implementation will any real change be found.