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Last updated: 16.11.21

What is the GROW Model for Coaching?

In both personal and professional contexts, coaching models are used as a framework for facilitating positive growth and development to make it easier for people to set goals, track progress and identify when they have been successful. The GROW model is one of the simplest and most commonly used methods of coaching and can be an incredibly useful model for all kinds of leaders, managers and coaches to help their teams and employees to grow in confidence and ability.

This article explains every aspect of the coaching and mentoring GROW model, how best to use it and what kinds of situations are most suited to this kind of coaching.

What is the GROW Coaching Model?

The GROW model of coaching was originally developed by business coaches Sir John Whitmore, Graham Alexander and Alan Fine. It’s an acronym that stands for Goals, Reality, Options and Will.

A huge proportion of business and life coaches use the GROW coaching model as a way to help their clients set realistic and achievable goals. With only four steps, it’s quite a simple approach to success that has been the basis of several other coaching models like the ACHIEVE model.

The intention that underpins each stage of the GROW model for coaching is identifying where you are now, where you want to ultimately end up, and then devising a plan to bridge that gap. The model facilitates this by ensuring that you address your current situation as well as your aspirations, leading to a much more realistic plan to help achieve your goals.

Below is a breakdown of what each of the four steps entails.

Goals

The first stage of the model is pretty self-explanatory; goals are the targets that you set at the beginning of the coaching process. Depending on the purpose of the coaching they could be anything from specific tasks you would like to get done to more general changes you would like to make in your life.

The goals set at the start of GROW coaching should follow the SMART criteria; they should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based. This will make it much easier to measure progress and ensure that reaching each target is a realistic challenge.

Reality

After identifying aspirations and deciding on specific goals, the next stage of the GROW coaching model is to consider your current reality. This is a very important stage as it helps establish a clear picture of where you are at the moment, which then makes it easier to understand what needs to change for you to reach your goals.

Exploring and accepting your current reality is also another way of ensuring that the goals you are aiming for are realistic and genuinely attainable. If you assess your current situation and realise that where you want to be is a large distance from where you are now, it might be better to set a more realistic goal that moves you closer to your overall aspiration.

Options

After setting goals and establishing a clear picture of your reality, the next stage involves bridging the gap between these two places by considering the different options you have to reach your target.

This stage encourages thinking of multiple approaches to success, considering different angles, potential challenges and creative ways to overcome these. GROW coaching is sometimes done in a group setting, and in these scenarios, the ‘Options’ stage will be explored as a group brainstorming session where all members offer ideas for moving from their reality to their goals.

Will

The final stage of the GROW coaching model refers to the will or the way forward. This is perhaps the most important part of the whole process, as it ensures that you will actually follow through on the plans you’ve made.

This last step involves setting an intention and holding yourself accountable to following the steps you have identified that will lead you to achieve your goal. By attaching an emotional desire to your goal, you’ll be reminded of why you’re working towards it and feel much more motivated to put the work in.

How to Use the GROW Model

Using the GROW model involves following each of the stages and developing a detailed plan to achieve each of the goals you come up with through the process. Many coaches use each stage as the starting point for asking different questions that will make setting goals easier, which we will give examples of below.

  • Set Goals

The first step of using the GROW model of coaching is the most straightforward, but can also be the most time-consuming. At this stage, you or the person you are coaching should think about the goals they would like to set or the things they would like to achieve.

If no preparation has been done beforehand, it can be easier just to reflect on what you or the person setting goals would like their future to look like. Identify what is different between this image and life now, and then use this to decide what goals can be set to close this gap.

Questions that can be asked at the goal stage include:

  • What would you like to achieve from this conversation?
  • What is important to you?
  • What new skills would you like to gain?
  • What new experiences would you like to have?
  • What areas of your life/career need more attention?
  • Is there anything you are currently working towards achieving?
  • Where would you like to be X amount of time in the future?
  • How will reaching these goals change your life/career?

You can set as many goals as you want at this stage.

  • Reflect on Your Reality

In this next stage, the person setting the goals should reflect on where they are right now in order to get a clear idea of the journey or progress needed to reach their target. It’s also an opportunity for introspection, examining motivations, limitations, strengths, weaknesses and other contextual factors that might affect progress.

This stage of the GROW model intends to establish a realistic view of where the person you are coaching is, as well as encouraging an accurate view of the self and the skills available.

Questions that can be asked at the reality stage include:

  • How would you describe where you are at in your life/career right now?
  • What are you happy with?
  • What would you like to change?
  • Where have you been successful in the past?
  • What have you previously found challenging?
  • Is there anything that has previously held you back from achieving goals?
  • What strengths can you rely on to reach your goals?
  • What is already moving you towards what you want?
  • Consider Your Options

Once specific goals have been established and a clear picture of the current situation has been formed, the next stage involves coming up with a plan for achieving the targets. In the GROW coaching model, this is often thought of as bridging the gap between the reality of your current situation and the ideal future you are working towards.

The best way to make a plan for achieving goals is to outline everything that you or the person being coached will need to do to achieve what they want. You can think creatively here and come up with different options for the same goal; what matters is that you are left with a clear plan broken down into manageable tasks that also ideally has a timeframe attached to it.

Questions that can help to make a plan in the options stage include:

  • What are the different routes towards this goal?
  • What is your first step towards each?
  • Do you need additional training/resources to complete any steps?
  • Are there any clear obstacles that might inhibit your progress?
  • How are you going to overcome these obstacles?
  • How long will each option take?
  • Which option will be the easiest?
  • Which option will be the most rewarding?
  • Establish Your Will

Finally, the last stage involves examining the motivation behind reaching each goal. This is most effective when there is an emotional reason for wanting something, as this means you are more likely to work hard at getting it and stay focused throughout the process.

As well as identifying the will behind each plan of action, this stage also involves committing to each goal and holding yourself accountable. This is easiest when there is a coach present, as telling someone your plans makes it harder to back out of following through on them.

Questions that can help to identify and strengthen a will to succeed include:

  • What is driving your desire to achieve these goals?
  • What positive impact will reaching these goals have?
  • How motivated do you feel to succeed?
  • Can you already sense anything holding you back?
  • Who can you trust to hold you accountable?
  • How will you celebrate when you achieve these goals?
  • What can you do today to make progress?

When to Use the GROW Model

The coaching and mentoring GROW model is a general tool that can be used for coaching in a range of different scenarios. No matter the kind of goals that are being set, it’s a framework that allows for realistic targets to be established along with clear steps towards success and an understanding of why you are working towards it.

Professional

In a professional context, the GROW model is an excellent way to facilitate development in a role and establish clear targets for employees. If you’re in a managerial position, are a workplace mentor or are responsible for a team of other members of staff, using this goal-setting model is a great way to help others realise their potential and learn how to identify and make a plan to achieve success.

One of the great things about the GROW coaching model is that it can be used in either a group setting or in a one-on-one context. At the options stage, a group can help each other to brainstorm the different ways they can approach their targets, which not only will help to identify more paths to success but also facilitates bonding and leads to more accountability.

Alternatively, if you’re coaching an individual in the workplace with the GROW model, the flexibility of this method means that you can use each stage as a starting point for wider discussions about aspirations, strengths, setbacks or challenges in their current situation, and what motivates them to succeed.

You can use the GROW model to set goals in a range of professional contexts, from official coaching sessions to annual reviews or informal meetings with other employees to discuss progress and personal growth.

Personal

The GROW coaching model can also be used to set personal goals, whether these are annual resolutions or part of building new habits and reaching personal milestones. You can follow the stages outlined above by yourself, reflecting on what you want to achieve and deciding how best you’re going to get there.

Personal goals are particularly suited to the GROW model because of the reality stage, which encourages you to reflect on where you are in life right now and what tools or skills you have that can help you to get what you want. Many people struggle with sticking to personal goals in particular, but the will stage also makes this easier by ensuring that you have set targets that you have an emotional desire to achieve.

FAQs

What is a coaching model?

A coaching model is a particular method designed to be followed as a way of coaching an individual towards improvement. Having a model to base a coaching strategy on not only gives you plenty of other case studies and advice to fall back on, but it also makes it easier to put plans together and identify ways to track and measure progress and success.

Who invented the GROW model?

The first published mention of the GROW model of coaching is in a book by Sir John Whitmore called ‘Coaching for Performance’ that was published in 1992. Alan Fine and Graham Alexander were also involved in the development of the model, and Tim Gallwey is also often credited for inspiring the creation of the GROW method which is based on his Inner Game method of coaching.

How does the GROW model help performance?

The GROW model is a great way to improve performance because it provides a framework for setting goals, making decisions and measuring progress. This makes it much easier to identify the ways in which you will succeed in whatever challenge you’re tackling, make a plan for how you’re going to do these things, and identify when you have reached your goals.

Summary

Whether you’re in charge of facilitating professional development for employees or are just looking for an effective method to use when setting personal goals, the GROW model for coaching is incredibly versatile, easy to follow and very effective. By considering your current status and situation as well as wherever you are aspiring to be, it is much easier to devise a genuinely effective plan for success and use the tools at your disposal to get there.

If you’d like to find out more about the GROW coaching model and other methodologies used in successful leadership and coaching, we cover these topics in our online ‘An Introduction to Leadership’ course, which is CPD certified.

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