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The GROW Model Explained

The GROW model is a solid, time-tested coaching tool that can help coaches ensure efficient results for their clients. GROW stands for:

  • Goal
  • Reality
  • Options (sometimes Obstacles)
  • Wrap-up (sometimes Will or Way forward)

Below, we consider each of these stages.

Establish the goal 

The coach and the coachee need to look at the behaviour that they want to change, and then structure that change as a goal they wish to achieve.

In setting goals, it is essential to distinguish between end goals and performance goals. An end goal is a final objective―becoming the market leader, being appointed a sales director, winning a gold medal, etc.―that is seldom within a person’s control. A performance goal identifies the performance level that will help maximise the chance of achieving the end goal. The performance goal is primarily within one’s power and provides a means of measuring progress. Examples of such targets could be, “95 percent of production should pass quality control the first time,” “Reduce weight by ten pounds by December 2014,” etc. An end goal should, wherever possible, be supported by a performance goal. The end goal may provide the inspiration, but the performance goal defines the specifics―it tells us how to get there.

Both end and performance goals also need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound) but PURE (Positively stated, Understood, Relevant, and Ethical) and CLEAR (Challenging, Legal, Environmentally sound, Appropriate, and Recorded).

When setting any goal, it’s useful to ask questions such as the following:

  • How will you know when you have achieved the goal? How will you know when any problem or issue that a goal is designed to overcome has been resolved?
  • Does this goal fit with your overall career objectives―and does it work with the team’s objectives?

Examine the current reality 

At this stage, the coachee is asked to describe his or her current reality.

This is a crucial step: too often, people try to solve a problem or reach a goal without fully considering their starting point, and usually, they end up missing some information that they need to achieve their goals efficiently. It is in this reality phase that questions should most often be initiated by the interrogatives what, when, where, who, and how much. How and why should be used only sparingly at this stage, usually when no other phrase will suffice.

The answers to these questions should be descriptive, not judgmental, to ensure honesty and accuracy. The answers must be of sufficient substance and frequency to provide the coach with a feedback loop.

Questions may include:

  • What is happening now (what, who, when, and how often)? What is the effect or result of this?
  • Have you already taken steps toward your goal? If so, what are they?
  • Does this goal conflict with any other goals or objectives you may have?

Explore the options 

The purpose of this stage is not to find the “right” answer, but to create and list as many alternative courses of action as possible.

The number of options is more important at this stage than the quality or feasibility of the alternatives. It is from this broad range of creative possibilities that specific actions will be selected and crafted. The coach needs to create an environment in which the participants feel safe enough to express their thoughts and ideas without inhibition or fear of judgment from the coach or others.

Once a comprehensive list is prepared, the Will phase of coaching can be quite simple: the coach helps the client select the best from the list. However, in certain complex cases, it may be necessary to reexamine the list by noting the costs and benefits of each course of action.

Typical questions include:

  • What else could you do in this situation to help reach your goals?
  • What if this or that constraint were removed? Would that change things?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
  • What factors or considerations will you use to weigh the options?
  • What do you need to stop doing to achieve this goal?
  • What obstacles stand in your way?

Establish the will 

The purpose of the final phase of the coaching sequence is to convert the discussion into a decision.

Useful questions to ask here include:

  • What will you do now, and when? What else will you do?
  • Will this action meet your goal?
  • What could stop you from moving forward? How will you overcome this?
  • How can you keep yourself motivated?
  • What support do you need?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, what is the degree of certainty you have that you will carry out the actions agreed?
  • When do you feel you need to review your progress―daily, weekly, monthly?

Finally, decide on a date when you’ll both review the coachee’s progress. This will provide some accountability and allow for changes in approach if the original plan isn’t working.