Probably the most widely known and used model is the GROW coaching model, originally identified by Sir John Whitmore, which is introduced in many coach training programmes and mentioned in many coaching books.
GROW represents four stages in the coaching conversation:
These four stages are explained in more detail below. See also GROW Coaching Questions which give examples of some of the questions you might ask at each stage.
At the outset of any coaching conversation it makes sense to establish what the coachee wants to achieve. Just as successful people set goals for their work and personal life, establishing goals at the outset of the coaching session helps to give the session a sense of purpose ensuring it becomes a meaningful conversation rather than an aimless chat.
At this stage a goal might reflect the bigger picture of what the coachee is aiming to achieve from coaching e.g. grow their business, get fitter, lose weight and also what the coachee specifically wants from the session itself e.g. identify a strategy or specific actions for moving forward or identifying options.
Once you have established what your coachee is aiming to achieve the next stage is about where they are in relation to their goal. i.e. what progress have they made towards their goal?; what are their current skills, knowledge and attributes?; what is the reality of what is expected of them? This is a real opportunity to really help your coachee build awareness of their current strengths and develop confidence …what are they doing already that they can build on, what skills do they possess which will stand them in good stead for the future?
At this point scaling techniques are a useful way of helping to measure progress.
This stage of the GROW coaching model is about helping your coachee explore the options available to them. It is all too easy for your coachee to take the first idea they think of and them move on to wrapping up the session. However your skill as a coach is in really helping your client to think outside the box, be creative and explore extensively until you are both satisfied no stone has been left unturned and they have a solution they are committed to. For example what has worked in the past? How do others do it? What would they do if anything was possible? What are the relative merits of each option?
Here you are bringing the session to a close. Once your coachee has explored different options for moving forward they are in a better position to select the most appropriate and commit to specific action. As a coach you will be helping to clarify the commitment of your coachee to their action and ensuring the coachee has an awareness of what they will now do, when, where and who might help them.
Again scaling techniques are useful to help ascertain commitment and motivation.
Whilst I have described the GROW coaching model as a linear process you can revisit any of the stages during the process depending on the needs of the client. For example after exploration of Reality you may find your coachee wants to readjust their Goal or having checked their commitment to an action may find that more Options need to be explored first.
The thing to remember is that GROW provides a useful framework however, to be effective you need to understand what your coachee’s needs are at any particular point in the coaching conversation. So be flexible enough to take them to the stage that most needs their needs, and there may be times using just part of the model is appropriate.
To summarise, the GROW model provides a useful structure which helps an individual or a team identify what they want to achieve (Goal), where they are now (Reality), what their options are (Options) and what action they will take (Wrap Up/ will/ Way Ahead).
Since a part of the model is about exploring options and taking action it therefore lends itself to coaching scenarios where specific action is required to move the coachee forward. This contrasts with a coaching situation you may have where the focus is solely on helping the coachee gain clarity or insights, for example helping a client explore their values or beliefs, which do not necessitate the exploring of options or identifying specific actions.
GROW need not be reserved for formal explicit one to one coaching sessions. The following are just examples of a wide range of scenarios where GROW (or elements of it) can be used to great effect.
Increasingly a coaching approach is taken to performance appraisals where, instead of ‘telling,’ the appraiser helps the appraisee come up with their own answers: goals for an individual can be agreed, their current skills, knowledge and attitude explored, options for development discussed and specific action identified. Whilst there may be no negotiation about what has to be achieved, there is usually enormous benefit in the appraisee identifying how they will achieve their objectives and gaining commitment to action.
GROW provides a useful model for bringing focus into meetings not only to ensure the meeting is kept on track and leads to meaningful conclusion but through a coaching approach provides a vehicle to involve and secure the commitment of participants throughout the process. This can be adapted accordingly so if the ‘why are we here’ is not negotiable then the focus can be on involving the participants during the other stages.
Often we get approached for advice from friends and family to help them solve their problems, only to feel that our suggestions are not right and will be discarded anyway. By coaching applying the GROW model we can offer an alternative approach which is far more likely to be received positively.
Just by asking ‘what do you really want here?’ or ‘what is important to you right now?’ (Goal) can help clarify what your friend really wants. And then asking questions to help them understand what the real situation is, what their options are and what option they want to take will help bolster their confidence and identify a solution which is right for them. Your non-advising non-judgemental approach will be recognised and appreciated.
Here are some examples of questions you might want to use during each stage of the GROW model. They certainly aren’t intended as an exhaustive list and the questions you will ask during your coaching conversation will be determined by the dialogue you are having with your coachee at any one point in time.
Note how all of the questions above are open questions therefore eliciting a response from the coachee of more than a "yes" or a "no".
It's also worth noting that none of the questions above start with the word "why". The reasons for this are that questions that start with the word "why" tend to imply judgement of some sort and this may change the thought process of the coachee.
For example "Why do you want to take this particular approach?" Whilst it is a valid question that will elicit an open response it may also cause the coachee to think that you, the coach, might believe an alternative approach is better.
For this reason, questions starting with the word "why" are best avoided.
Coaching for Performance, 4th Edition: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose (People Skills for Professionals) by Sir John Whitmore (Paperback - 12 Mar 2002)
Effective Coaching: Lessons from the Coach's Coach by Myles Downey (Paperback - 15 Nov 2003)
Co-Active Coaching, 2nd Edition: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and, Life by Laura Whitworth (Paperback - 15 Feb 2007)