Coaching is a beautiful, collaborative process between coach and client.
Being effective in this profession takes a certain amount of skill beyond being a good listener.
Asking the right types of questions to encourage a client to have a personal insight into their own growth is the overall goal. Having a framework for those types of questions is incredibly helpful.
The GROW model is one of the most popular coaching frameworks. The approach can be used in a wide variety of coaching modalities. In this article, we’ll explain more about this approach to coaching leadership and personal development.
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What Is the GROW Coaching Model?
This framework for coaching was developed in the 1980s by Sir John Whitmore and his colleagues at Performance Consultants International. He wrote the book Coaching for Performance (1988), which has been widely used for decades. Seeking to find a more effective way to lead in business, GROW was developed to create stronger leaders. The approach has helped improve performance across the globe.
GROW is an acronym for the following components:
Reality (current obstacles or situations)
Options (strengths, resources)
Way forward (accountability and personal actions – what, when, by whom, and the will to do it)
This model takes goal setting to a higher level. Well-set goals are inspirational and challenging. When reaching for a broader goal perspective with this approach, leaders are more productive, self-motivated, and fulfilled.
Coaches aren’t viewed as having the answers for their clients. Effective coaches ask the powerful questions that open their clients up to their own potential within this solution-focused framework. Empowered people don’t need someone else to have the solutions; they are given opportunities to find solutions for themselves.
This model is frequently used in organizations. When GROW is utilized, the culture of the organization allows growth for all employees, starting with leaders. Establishing a coaching culture helps hold people accountable for their actions in all directions.
Finding clarity around a goal allows for the structure of GROW to begin with what matters first. This type of clarity helps an individual or group to envision the steps required to move forward. This structure opens people up to broader goals and enables them to find a personal connection to that goal.
A desired change can tow emotional reactions with it. The reality stage of GROW allows people to explore their motivational connection to the goal. This part of the structure allows for the exploration of strengths and how they will support forward movement.
In the options stage of the GROW model, people are supported as they brainstorm various strategies to meet the needs of the goal. It is a vital stage to allow participants’ imagination to roam. It can be incredibly fun to imagine an unlimited budget and resources.
After the process of generating abundant options, the way forward portion of the GROW model harnesses the client’s will to create action plans. During this phase, a coach can find out what their client is actually willing to do to move toward their goal. This phase creates opportunities for accountability and structure for tracking future progress.
It is recommended that most of the coaching session time be spent in the goal and reality phases when utilizing this model. When goals and reality get thoroughly explored, deeper vision helps clients to move forward more easily. This model doesn’t have to be absolutely linear. Revising the first two phases is sometimes helpful in sparking higher commitment to goals and actions.
6 Examples of the GROW Coaching Model
The GROW model can be used in a variety of settings.
The framework allows for adaptability in creating coaching cultures. Once this culture becomes the norm, this framework allows for people to work and live together more harmoniously and productively.
Every leader should know some form of coaching skills. The GROW model is terrific for creating a scaffolding for building employee growth potential. The structure allows for the coachee to lead the conversation and will enable the manager to better understand the employees’ personal connection to goals.
A coaching culture provides the opportunity for employees to feel heard through improved communication skills. It also develops rapport and camaraderie within an organization. Human beings who are more connected to a common goal will move toward that goal with better results.
Coaching the individual allows for a safe space to explore personal motivation toward growth-related goals. GROW can be used as a framework for any type of goal. Personal development can occur in any setting, whether it’s business, health, or any other area where obstacles need to be overcome.
3. Group or team
The GROW model can be utilized in a team or group setting to clarify team goals better. Building teamwork through group coaching is a powerful way to initiate team motivation toward common goals, as well as improve morale. Group coaching helps to get everyone on the same page and to define roles and personal responsibility toward team goals.
4. Parenting and teaching students
Like managers, parents and teachers should all have some form of coaching skills in their tool bag.
Communication in families can prove to be difficult if children are not able to speak their values. Utilizing Socratic questioning allows kids to realize their potential and their motivation to achieve personal goals (McLachlan, Eastwood, & Friedberg, 2016). GROW allows an easy framework to broaden children’s minds and to help parents and teachers better understand children’s perspectives.
A variation of the GROW model that is important to note is TGROW, where T stands for topic. Before heading straight to goals, an exploration of the topic that the coachee would like to focus on better attunes them with their expectation in a session.
From time to time, human beings need to explore a topic that is unrelated to other areas of growth. Allowing first for topic exploration puts the coachee in the driver’s seat for the coaching conversation.
Another alteration of the GROW model adds tactics and habits to increase specificity toward goal attainment. The T asks questions about the specific steps the client will take toward goal achievement. The H establishes how success will be maintained.
This alteration of the GROW model allows the client and coach to forge a more precise plan. It also illuminates daily personal responsibilities and actions that one must take to stay on track.
40 Best GROW Model Coaching Questions
- What would you like to focus on today?
- What’s important to you at the moment?
- What does your ideal future look like?
- What will you be doing in five years?
- What new skills do you want to learn or develop?
- Where is your life out of balance?
- What challenges are you facing at the moment?
- What would make you feel that this time has been well spent?
- What are you currently working toward?
- How can you word your goal in positive language?
- What is working well at the moment?
- What do you need?
- What excuses have you always used for not achieving your goals?
- What have you done so far to improve things?
- What parts of your life will be impacted by you achieving your goal?
- What is the biggest obstacle you are currently facing?
- What does self-sabotage look like for you?
- What is your inner critic saying to you?
- What fears are present?
- What are you passionate about?
- What is your first step?
- If you had 50% more confidence, what would you be doing that would be different?
- If success was guaranteed, what would you do?
- If money was not an obstacle, what would you do?
- What action step is the best use of your time at this moment?
- If someone else came to you with your obstacle, what would you tell them?
- What strengths can you use to move forward?
- If you could do only one thing this week, what would it be?
- What would you do if you answered to no one?
- What is the most efficient use of your time in this moment?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how motivated are you to achieve your goal?
- What will it take to get that motivation closer to a 10?
- Whatever your first step is, can you think of anything that might stop you from doing it?
- How committed are you to achieving this goal?
- How do you want to be held accountable for this goal?
- How will you celebrate when you’ve achieved your goal?
- What are you going to do in the next 24 hours?
- What will you do when you’ve achieved your goal?
- Who do you need to include in your journey to that goal?
- What else do you need to consider before starting?
5 GROW Coaching Model Exercises and Worksheets (+ PDF)
The GROW model is a great way to weave coaching and positive psychology together.
We know from Self-Determination Theory that autonomous motivation is important in effective goal setting (Deci & Ryan, 2008).
Utilizing the goals portion of the GROW framework is therefore vital to connecting with a client’s motivation.
Opportunities to introduce concepts in positive psychology that a client may be unaware of are plentiful in coaching relationships. Through the introduction of VIA character strengths, clients can begin to build creative ways to utilize their strengths in their lives and workplaces. More engaged employees produce better results (Robison & Gandhi, 2019).
In the goals section of the framework, helping a client realize their strengths and align them with their goals is a helpful exercise. Goals are anchors for hope (Oettingen & Gollwitzer, 2002), and the more human beings are aligned with their core values in movements toward those goals, the better engaged people will be in participating in actions that will make those goals realized.
Here is a helpful goal-setting exercise to use with clients.
When working in the reality of the GROW framework, it is important to remember how perspective works. If a client has never experienced the beauty of reframing and growth mindset conversations, it would be a perfect time to serve them with this information.
Broaden-and-build theory (Fredrickson, 2001) gives clients the ability to open themselves to possibilities through increased positive emotions. By asking a client about what is working well, you can help their brains become more open.
Offering your clients unconditional positive regard gives them an opportunity to explore their personal perspective. This area of GROW allows for an invitation for self-assessment. This part of the framework can illuminate the information that is required to adequately solve problems.
Here is a helpful reality worksheet to use with clients.
The options = of the GROW framework can be magical. It allows clients to explore possibilities and choose which of those possibilities will best move them forward. When the client develops these options, they are more motivated and emotionally connected to them.
Here is a helpful options worksheet to use with clients.
Each coaching session will reveal a way forward for the client. A coach’s job is to collaborate with their client to assist them in connecting with what they want to do and how they will take their next step. This portion of the framework helps to develop a commitment to goal achievement.
This stage of the GROW model clarifies action steps and prepares a specific plan forward. Identifying future obstacles allows clients to plan ahead and keep the momentum going when these obstacles inevitably pop up. Having an accountability buddy in the process will help a client hold themselves to what they said they were going to do.
Here is a helpful way forward worksheet to use with clients.
The GROW model can be utilized in group coaching, as well. Here is a helpful GROW With Your Team exercise to use in a group setting. It’s useful to have a framework in place when many voices need to be heard.
GROW Model Coaching PowerPoint Templates
The templates in this presentation highlight the “how” of the GROW model. It is a helpful presentation to offer leaders in any area responsible for others. These GROW Templates explain the GROW model.
A Take-Home Message
The GROW model is a simple yet highly effective coaching framework that can be used in any coaching setting. When a coach creates a reliable scaffolding for a session, the client can easily move through whatever they need to explore to decide what action steps, if any, they’d like to take moving forward. It can be adapted to fit into any setting where decisions need to be made or obstacles overcome.
The benefit of having structure when coaching is that the client-chosen topic can move forward on their terms. It helps set an agenda, and open-ended coaching questioning allows clients to be open to the possibilities that might be revealed. Holding space for other people is hard work. The GROW model makes the process a little more structured.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.
If you wish for more, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 350 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments for practitioners to use in their therapy, coaching, or workplace.
- Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Self-determination theory: A macro theory of human motivation, development, and health. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 49(3), 182-185.
- Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218-226.
- McLachlan, N. H., Eastwood, L., & Friedberg, R. D. (2016). Socratic questions with children: Recommendations and cautionary tales. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 30(2), 105-119.
- Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2002). Turning hope thoughts into goal-directed behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 13(4), 304-307.
- Robison, J. & Gandhi, R. (2019, March 13). Make engagement central to culture and reap the rewards. Gallup. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/workplace/247493/engagement-central-culture-reap-rewards.aspx
- Whitmore, J. (1988). Coaching for performance. Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.