Following on from Key Coaching Skills in the Introduction to Business Coaching series is the GROW model. Devised by Sir John Whitmore and described in his book Coaching For Performance, it is probably the most common coaching model used in business, at least in the UK. It offers a way of structuring coaching sessions to facilitate a balanced discussion:
- GOAL – defining what you want to achieve
- REALITY – exploring the current situation, relevant history and future trends
- OPTIONS – coming up with new ideas for reaching the goal
- WHAT/WHO/WHEN – deciding on a concrete plan of action
In practice, since most coaching is driven by questions, this means that different types of question are used at each stage:
- GOAL – questions to define the goal as clearly as possible and also to evoke an emotional response
[What do you want to achieve? What will be different when you achieve it? What’s important about this for you?]
- REALITY – questions to elicit specific details of the situation and context
[What is happening now? Who is involved? What is their outcome? What is likely to happen in future?]
- OPTIONS – open-ended questions to facilitate creative thinking
[What could you do? What ideas can you bring in from past successes? What haven’t you tried yet?]
- WHAT – focused questions to get an agreement to specific actions and criteria for success
[What will you do? When will you do it? Who do you need to involve? When should you see results?]
Used judiciously, the GROW model offers an excellent framework for structuring a coaching session. It is particularly useful for beginners, helping them to see the wood for the trees and keep the session on track. However, Whitmore is at pains to emphasise that models and structures are not the heart of coaching:
GROW, without the context of AWARENESS and RESPONSIBILITY, and the skill of questioning to generate them, has little value.
I prefer to think of the GROW model as a compass for orientation rather than a rigid sequence of steps to be followed. I don’t think I’ve ever taken part in a coaching session that began with Goals, then progressed smoothly through an analysis of Reality, then brainstormed Options before settling on the What?/When?/Who? and How? of an action plan.
Coaching can begin at any of the four stages of the GROW model. A coachee might begin by telling you about something she wants to achieve (Goal), a current problem (Reality), a new idea for improving things (Options) or by outlining an action plan (What). As a coach, it’s usually a good idea to follow the coachee’s lead initially by asking a few questions to elicit more detail, then move onto the other steps.
Personally, I always start a coaching conversation by asking a goal-focused question (e.g. “So what do you want to achieve?”) as a way of setting the tone for the discussion. Sometimes the coachee replies with a description of a problem (Reality) which is fine – I’ll listen, probe for a few details then as soon as possible return to Goals, to keep the conversation focused.
On the other hand, if someone comes to me full of ideas and enthusiasm (Goals, Options), I’ll do my best to help them maintain this while taking account of hard facts (Reality) and getting a commitment to specific action (What). As so often with coaching, the important principle is balance.
Next in this series – Formal and Informal Coaching.