Coaching and the GROW model – Part 1

26 Apr

Some people have a preference for structure and would feel a little lost without it; others prefer the perceived freedom of working without structure.

Where do you sit?

We would argue that structure can really help people to feel more confident as it gives them a sequence that will lead to an output for each coaching session.

There are many coaching models that can be used to bring structure and sequence to your coaching. We have chosen to illustrate the GROW model here because it is simple, powerful and well proven. It is the most widely used business coaching model and grew out of studies of how successful people seemed to be able to move situations forward, particularly in the context of face-to-face meetings.

It was first created by Graham Alexander in the mid-80s and was subsequently refined and published by John Whitmore in his book Coaching for Performace (1992) .

The GROW model is easy to apply in practice and it ensures that you cover all of the important bases in your coaching conversations. It is flexible, easy to follow and can structure either a short or longer coaching interaction. 

Goal setting

What do you want? Identify short-term and long-term goals, and the goal for the coaching session.


What is happening right now? Focus on the current situation – current challenges, performance and strategy.


What could we do to achieve the short/long-term goal? Brainstorm to explore alternative strategies or specific courses of action.


Now let’s decide. What is to be done as a result of the exploration of options? When will it be done and by whom. Explore the will to do it (motivation). This is an opportunity to investigate obstacles and ways of overcoming them.

Let’s look at the first half of GROW in a little more detail.


Goals are particularly important in a coaching relationship. Goals give us direction and clarity, and assist in developing and engaging motivation.

Studies have shown that people with clear, written goals are far more likely to achieve them than those who don’t have them. Goals give specific focus to the coaching and align the coachee’s mind with what, specifically, they want to achieve.

Here are some important tips for goals in the context of coaching.

  • Ensure you take time to set long-term goals for the coaching, and short-term goals for the session itself. This helps set expectations and keeps coaching sessions on track.
  • For individual coaching sessions, you can ask ‘What specifically do you want to get from the next 45 minutes in relation to your goals?’
  • For long-term goals be sure to look for shorter-term performance goals. These are the milestones that give a sense of achievement along the way and help the coachee to see that they are on track for the long-term objective.
  • Build a compelling vision of what success will look, sound and feel like. Help the coachees see, hear and/or feel it for themselves. This is a technique that top sports people use to engage motivation and maximise their performance.
  • Make sure that the goals you set are towards something that you want rather than away from something that you do not want. Rather than a goal such as ‘To reduce customer complaints’, set a goal along the lines of ‘To achieve a 95 per cent or better rating on our customer service questionnaire’. The first focuses the mind on complaints whereas the latter focuses on achieving a level of satisfaction. When the coachee comes up with an ‘away-from’ goal, such as ‘I want less of …’, then you can turn this into a ‘towards’ goal by asking: ‘If that is what you don’t want, what specifically do you want instead?’


Reality is about objective, descriptive facts and current reality. Before you can move a situation forward it really helps to get very clear on what, specifically, is happening now. Often, this is the time that you surface limiting assumptions and beliefs that the other person is holding, which might limit their performance and sense of choice.

In your questions around reality, you might make a lot of use of the word ‘specifically’ to bring clarity and awareness to the other person. Look to find out what is working at present, what has been tried, what the result (specifically) has been, and so on. Be wary of generalisations about what is happening currently. Watch for words like ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘all’ and other words that tend to accompany global generalisations.

It is important to retain your objectivity as you are looking for what can be learned from the current situation. As soon as you judge, the learning available to the coachee is diminished and the other person might be tempted to justify what has happened and what they have done, rather than to think about it as feedback and learning.

In part 2 we will be looking at the second half of the GROW model and how it can be used in practice. 

Post courtesy of People Alchemy (@peoplealchemy on Twitter)

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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Coaching


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