The GROW coaching model was developed by coaching pioneer Sir John Whitmore and has been used for over forty years. It is a structure within which executive coaching may be conducted to aid leadership development. The coach is an objective facilitator whose role is to assist their client in identifying the best options available to them that will serve their goals, without offering specific advice or direction. It is up to the client to discern what is best for themselves. The use of the GROW model as a tool for leadership excellence within teams differs slightly from this because as leader, you will have some expertise that allows you to guide your team through options to avoid ones that could bring harm. The GROW coaching model is a four-step lens through which options are analysed and decisions can be made; Goal, Reality, Options, Will.
The purpose of many coaching relationships is for the coach to help their client get clear on their goals, and identify strategies to help them reach them. The focus of the Goal stage is on the solution and what the coachee wants to achieve, rather than the problem being addressed. Often, leaders will have a broad idea of what this looks like, though they may have difficulty articulating what needs to be done in order to succeed. An executive coaching program provides leaders with the opportunity to explore their goals thoroughly and help them to establish specific targets they are then able to work towards.
Examples of Goal questions a coach might ask are:
- Where are you going?
- How long will it take to get there?
- What are the benefits of achieving your goal?
- How will you measure progress?
The Reality stage is used to frame the identified goals within the context of the coachee’s current situation. The executive coach helps their coachee to understand the problem they are trying to solve, and how doing so will impact themselves and those around them. It is an opportunity for the leader to view the situation from alternative perspectives. The solution to certain problems can begin to emerge as a result of speaking aloud about them. Developing this style of thinking through senior leadership training will have considerable benefits for team problem solving once the new strategies are implemented.
Some useful Reality questions are:
- What is happening now?
- Who else is affected?
- What steps have already been taken towards reaching your goal?
- What may be preventing you from reaching your goal?
Once goals have been set and the current reality has been examined, we can then begin the process of exploring what options are available. It is particularly important in this stage of the executive training program, that the coachee leads the discussion. The coach must of course be able to provide clarity and guidance, but they can not make the final decision. The objective here is for the coachee to come up with as many possible solutions that could help them succeed.
Questions asked during the Options stage should be open ended in order to drive discussion:
- What are the options?
- Who could help you with this, and how?
- Where can you find more information?
- What else could be done?
By the time the Will stage is reached, the coachee should have a clearer idea how their goal can be achieved. It is here that specific actions must be committed to, that will make achievement possible. The coach’s role now, is to help the coachee determine which of the options discussed should be taken up. Typically, the coachee will already have made the decision for themselves but will still benefit from assistance in building and committing to a measurable and actionable strategy. If the coach senses a hesitancy to commit, revisiting the Options is necessary for clearing roadblocks and finding the best way forward.
Examples of Will questions are:
- What action are you going to take?
- How are you going to do that?
- What will keep you motivated?
- What could prevent you from taking action? How will you overcome this?
The GROW model is an important part of building a coaching culture within teams and organisations. It helps groups and individuals to identify strategies for reaching their goals, including how to overcome obstacles they may face. A leadership excellence program that teaches the GROW model encourages meaningful conversation as a part of the problem solving process. It should also be noted that the model is not meant to be followed as a rigid structure. The GROW model is a framework that aims to prompt discussion that leads to effective solutions. While Goals and Reality will typically be explored first, coaching conversations can move between all four elements.