Tools and models for managers - The GROW Coaching Model

Lighthouse HR Consulting Ltd

The GROW Coaching Model

This is the first of a short series of posts describing some useful models which I've shared with my Coaching and Development clients. With thanks to its originators, including Sir John Whitmore, whose fantastic, easy-to-read book, “Coaching For

Performance - The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership” provides all you’ll ever need on the subject.

I’ve spoken to a couple of Coaches lately who have rolled their eyes when they mentioned the GROW model, maybe because they think it's a bit old hat. That’s a shame. It’s brilliant, whether you are a business owner, senior leader, or a first line supervisor.

It’s easy to remember and easy to use. Here’s the model (with i to make it "iGROW") and then a bit of an explanation…. (i – ISSUE) G – GOAL R – REALITY O – OPTIONS W- WAY FORWARD or What you WILL do A couple of essentials for success... OPEN questions to let the “coachee(s)” come up with the answers, and find their own solutions and way forward - ‘what?’, ‘where?’, ‘when?’ and ‘how?’ etc. Secondly, ACTIVE, EMPATHETIC listening, not thinking about how you want them to answer your last question, and thinking what your next clever question will be!

You’re just... listening. Hopefully, it’s easy to see that you can use this model in a variety of situations: really quick 1-1 conversations “on the shopfloor”, regular 1-1 updates, a more detailed performance problem discussion, a career development meeting, or problem-solving in a bigger team meeting.

Here are some of the questions you might ask...

(ISSUE) “OK, so what is the issue we’ve got here?”

Or maybe (if you are raising the issue), “So, I think the issue we need to discuss here is…” and then explore. It could be about some aspect of individual performance that’s below par, time management, how to get ready for the next promotion opportunity, or a team meeting discussion about a problem or opportunity.

GOAL “So, what exactly is it you need to achieve?” or “What is your objective here?” and, later, "How will you know when you've achieved it?".

Here’s where you then work hard to get your team member (or team) to be very specific about the goal to be achieved, timescales/deadlines, how they’ll know it’s achieved, etc.

(Think SMART – maybe a post later in the series). REALITY “Can you describe the current situation to me” or “What exactly is happening at the moment?”; "What have you done so far? What is helped so far?"

You’re working hard to help them be very clear about the problem (or opportunity), what tells them there’s an issue, what’s going wrong, what’s missing?

Also, what’s gone well? What’s been done so far? etc. OPTIONS “Alright, that’s really clear, now. So, what COULD you do? What options do you have?”

You should probably hear yourself saying things like, “What else?” And, “Great, and what else”.

And, “Forget [budget/time restrictions/possible consequences/obstacles] – we can evaluate later. If anything’s possible, what else COULD you do?”

Maybe, "If you HAD to get this done tomorrow, how would you do it?"

You’re getting them to brainstorm, first, keep them open to as many possibilities as possible, no matter how whacky!

Sensible seeds of a way forward can come out of whacky ideas. When they run out of ideas, THEN you’re helping them to evaluate, rule out, select the best idea.


“OK, so what will you do? What’s going to be the best way forward?” followed by questions like, “When do you expect to have that done?”

And “What are the steps, what’s the plan?” And “Who/what do you need to help?”

Then help them check their confidence and commitment.

“Out of 10, how certain are you that you will achieve this?” And (critically) “OK.

What’s going to stop you? What is going to get in the way?”

And, therefore “So what’s your contingency? How are you going to get over that if it happens?”.

Maybe, “So what can you do to make you 10/10 certain/committed?”

This is a really basic explanation, as I describe it when I introduce it in my coaching, but I hope it gives anyone enough of an understanding to give it a go.

There are also many resources to build more understanding, including “Mindtools” which has a great page on GROW, and hundreds of other management topics.

And you can of course search “great GROW coaching questions” in your search engine.

Here’s one result, straight from Sir John Whitmore’s Consulting business. Hope this is helpful to some of you.

Enjoy! Back soon.