What Is The GROW Model? The GROW Model In A Nutshell

Though no single individual can claim to have created the GROW model, writers Graham Alexander and Alan Fine together with racing car champion John Whitmore played a significant part in developing the framework during the 80s and 90s. The GROW model is a simple way to set goals and solve problems during coaching sessions through four stages: goal, reality, options, and will (way forward).

Understanding the GROW model

The GROW model helps leaders and managers develop their subordinates or institute behavioral change.

Through feedback and positive reinforcement, the simple-to-use model encourages the learner to bridge the gap between their current state and a desired, future state.

Such is the success of the coaching framework that it forms the basis of similar approaches such as the ACHIEVE model and A3 problem-solving.

The four stages of a GROW model coaching session

GROW is an acronym for the four stages the teacher must guide the learner through in a conversation.

Collectively, the stages signify a metaphorical journey:

Stage 1 – Goal

To begin the journey, a goal must first dictate where the learner is going.

These include short-term goals for every session and longer-term goals that define central themes. 

Clarity on goal setting can be enhanced by asking:

  • What is important to the learner with respect to the overarching theme?
  • What will reaching the goal give them or enable them to do?
  • How will they know when the goal has been achieved? Alternatively, how will they know when the problem has been solved?

Stage 2 – Reality

During the second stage, the instructor needs to encourage the student to consider obstacles that have been holding them back.

This phase is important because it can unearth hidden fears or convictions the student may have been unable to previously verbalize.

Furthermore, cognitive biases can be debunked using objective evidence or feedback.

Exploratory questions include:

  • What is happening (to the learner) now?
  • What, when, with whom, and how often?
  • Why is the theme a problem? Include concrete examples as supporting evidence.
  • Is the theme continually a problem, or are there situations where the learner succeeds?
  • What are the defining factors? That is, what are the factors capable of making a difference?

Stage 3 – Options

At this point, the coach must determine how the student can bridge the gap between the current and desired state.

Students ought to be encouraged to think positively about their goals and list multiple ways for achieving them.

In other words:

  • What options does the learner have?
  • Who could help them achieve their goals?
  • How can they become enthused or motivated to achieve their goals?
  • What might their friends, colleagues, superiors, or significant other suggest?

Stage 4 – Will (Way Forward)

In the final stage, the coach helps the student identify a specific set of actions and importantly, commit to them.

Commitment and success can be increased by the pair working together to accommodate busy schedules or make the tasks more exciting and engaging.

Ideally, the student should leave every session with at least one goal.

Stage 4 questions can be adapted from those asked in the previous stage. That is, the teacher can ask the student what they will do instead of what they could do. 

Other helpful conversation starters include:

  • What could the learner do as a first step to get the ball rolling?
  • What actions are non-negotiable and need to be taken?
  • How does the learner feel about their actions? What would it take to get excited?
  • How might commitment be measured and monitored? How will the commitment be maintained during periods of low motivation or distraction?
  • What are three things the learner is willing to do to support themselves?
  • How would they like to be held accountable for their actions?
  • How might the learners sabotage themselves, unintentionally or otherwise?

GROW coaching model examples

In the introduction, we mentioned that the GROW coaching model was used as a personal development tool for subordinates in collaboration with their superiors.

In truth, however, the model can be used in many other contexts. Some of these are listed in this section.

Individual goals

The model can be used by individuals outside the workplace to explore their motivation towards more private goals.

For example, someone who has difficulty saving money may use it to help them become enthused and motivated enough to save for a new house. 

Similarly, an individual who has made numerous attempts to lose weight in the past can use the GROW model to commit to an exercise plan and overcome certain self-imposed obstacles.

Groups and teams

The model also works for groups and teams and helps, whether that be teams of employees in an office or a team of professional sports players.

Whatever the context, it is very simple to adapt the individual-centric nature of the GROW model to multiple individuals. 

This builds teamwork, collaboration, and improves morale since each member is striving toward the same goal and understands their role in helping the team achieve that goal.

Parents and teachers

While teachers must earn various forms of accreditation before they are qualified, parents often find themselves looking after their children with very little experience in coaching or assisting them in realizing their potential. 

To help children identify their values and strive toward meaningful goals, parents can use the GROW model in conjunction with the Socratic questioning technique.

This form of guided inquiry encourages parents to ask questions without a personal agenda.

Socratic questioning can also be used by teachers in the classroom to understand their students’ perspectives better.

Additional Case Studies

  • Health and Wellness Coaching:
    • Goal (G): The client’s goal is to improve overall health and well-being. This may include objectives like weight loss, increased fitness, or stress reduction.
    • Reality (R): Assess the client’s current health status, including lifestyle habits, diet, exercise routine, and stress levels. Identify existing barriers to wellness.
    • Options (O): Explore various approaches to achieving wellness, such as nutrition plans, exercise routines, stress management techniques, and potential lifestyle changes.
    • Will (W): Develop a concrete plan with the client, including specific actions, timelines, and accountability measures. Ensure the client commits to the plan.
  • Financial Coaching:
    • Goal (G): Define financial objectives, such as saving for retirement, reducing debt, or building an investment portfolio.
    • Reality (R): Evaluate the client’s current financial situation, including income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. Identify financial challenges and habits.
    • Options (O): Brainstorm investment strategies, budgeting techniques, debt reduction plans, and potential income-generating opportunities.
    • Will (W): Create a customized financial plan that includes actionable steps, savings goals, and investment decisions. Ensure the client is committed to following the plan.
  • Entrepreneurship Coaching:
    • Goal (G): Set entrepreneurial goals, such as increasing revenue, expanding market reach, or launching a new product or service.
    • Reality (R): Assess the current state of the business, including financials, market position, competition, and operational challenges.
    • Options (O): Explore growth strategies, marketing approaches, product/service innovations, and potential partnerships or investments.
    • Will (W): Develop an actionable growth plan with specific milestones, marketing campaigns, and financial projections. Ensure the entrepreneur is committed to executing the plan.
  • Career Coaching:
    • Goal (G): Define career goals, such as securing a promotion, switching careers, or acquiring new skills.
    • Reality (R): Evaluate the client’s current job, skills, achievements, and career challenges. Identify areas for improvement or development.
    • Options (O): Explore career advancement strategies, skill-building opportunities, networking, and potential job transitions.
    • Will (W): Create a career development plan with specific actions, skill acquisition milestones, and networking goals. Ensure the client is committed to advancing their career.
  • Relationship Coaching:
    • Goal (G): Set relationship goals, which may include improving communication, resolving conflicts, or strengthening emotional bonds.
    • Reality (R): Assess the current state of the relationship, including communication patterns, conflicts, and areas of dissatisfaction.
    • Options (O): Explore relationship-building strategies, effective communication techniques, conflict resolution methods, and ways to nurture the relationship.
    • Will (W): Develop an action plan for the couple or individual to implement relationship improvements. Ensure commitment to ongoing efforts and communication.

GROW coaching model adaptations

Two further examples of the CROW coaching model can be provided by looking at how the original model has been adapted. 

TGROW model

The TGROW model is very similar to the GROW model but with one key difference.

Before the coachee identifies where they are heading in the goal stage, they are first called upon to define a broad topic (T) they would like to address.

This initial phase is important because it enables the coachee and indeed the coacher to better understand the scale of the topic and why it is important to the coachee’s long-term vision.

In some instances, unrelated issues may surface that the coachee did not anticipate and the focus of the entire process may be adapted to suit.

GROWTH model

The GROWTH model adds Tactics (T) and Habits (H) to the standard GROW model.

As you may have guessed, these extra steps increase the likelihood of goal attainment.

Tactics deal with the specific steps the client will need to undertake while habits clarify how success will be maintained and help the coachee avoid complacency.

In the best-case scenario, tactics and habits increase buy-in and commitment as the resultant plan is specific, precise, and clarifies incremental actions that help the coachee stay on track.

Key takeaways

  • The GROW model is a simple yet reflective way for students to set goals and solve problems during coaching sessions.
  • The GROW model is used by managerial staff to develop subordinates and institute behavioral change through positive reinforcement.
  • The GROW model is based on four stages that comprise a metaphorical journey of learning: goal, reality, options, and will. Each works together to help the student determine their future desired state, plan how they will get there, and navigate obstacles. 

Key Highlights

  • GROW Model: Co-developed by Graham Alexander, Alan Fine, and John Whitmore, the GROW model is a coaching framework used to set goals and solve problems. It helps leaders and managers develop their subordinates or institute behavioral change through positive reinforcement.
  • Four Stages of the GROW Model: The GROW model consists of four stages: Goal, Reality, Options, and Will (Way Forward). These stages guide the learner through a conversation and help them bridge the gap between their current state and the desired future state.
  • GROW Coaching Model Examples: The GROW model can be used in various contexts, including individual goals, groups and teams, and by parents and teachers to help children identify their values and strive toward meaningful goals. It can also be adapted to include tactics and habits for better goal attainment.
  • TGROW Model: The TGROW model is similar to the GROW model, but it adds an initial step where the coachee defines a broad topic they would like to address before identifying their specific goal.
  • GROWTH Model: The GROWTH model expands on the GROW model by including Tactics and Habits. Tactics specify the specific steps the coachee will need to take, while Habits focus on how success will be maintained and how to avoid complacency.
  • Key Takeaways: The GROW model is a valuable coaching tool that helps individuals set clear and compelling goals, identify obstacles, explore options, and commit to specific actions to achieve their desired future state. It is widely used by leaders and managers to foster personal development and achieve behavioral change.

What are the four stages of the GROW model?

What are some GROW model examples?

Some GROW model examples comprise:

  • Individual goals are used outside the workplace to explore individuals’ motivation towards more private goals.
  • Groups and teams:  it is straightforward to adapt the individual-centric nature of the GROW model to multiple individuals. 
  • Parents and teachers: To help children identify their values and strive toward meaningful goals, parents can use the GROW model in conjunction with the Socratic questioning technique.

What are some adaptations of the GROW model?

Variations and adaptations of the GROW model comprise:

  • TGROW model is the same as the GROW model, but it adds a “T” to define a broad topic (T) they would like to address.
  • GROWTH model is a variation and adaptation of the GROW model, which adds Tactics (T) and Habits (H) to the standard GROW model.

Connected Leadership Concepts And Frameworks

Leadership Styles

Leadership styles encompass the behavioral qualities of a leader. These qualities are commonly used to direct, motivate, or manage groups of people. Some of the most recognized leadership styles include Autocratic, Democratic, or Laissez-Faire leadership styles.

Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles by a manager or management team. Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles. 

Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive leadership is a model used by leaders to help individuals adapt to complex or rapidly changing environments. Adaptive leadership is defined by three core components (precious or expendable, experimentation and smart risks, disciplined assessment). Growth occurs when an organization discards ineffective ways of operating. Then, active leaders implement new initiatives and monitor their impact.

Blue Ocean Leadership

Authors and strategy experts Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne developed the idea of blue ocean leadership. In the same way that Kim and Mauborgne’s blue ocean strategy enables companies to create uncontested market space, blue ocean leadership allows companies to benefit from unrealized employee talent and potential.

Delegative Leadership

Developed by business consultants Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the 1960s, delegative leadership is a leadership style where authority figures empower subordinates to exercise autonomy. For this reason, it is also called laissez-faire leadership. In some cases, this type of leadership can lead to increases in work quality and decision-making. In a few other cases, this type of leadership needs to be balanced out to prevent a lack of direction and cohesiveness of the team.

Distributed Leadership

Distributed leadership is based on the premise that leadership responsibilities and accountability are shared by those with the relevant skills or expertise so that the shared responsibility and accountability of multiple individuals within a workplace, bulds up as a fluid and emergent property (not controlled or held by one individual). Distributed leadership is based on eight hallmarks, or principles: shared responsibility, shared power, synergy, leadership capacity, organizational learning, equitable and ethical climate, democratic and investigative culture, and macro-community engagement.

Ethical Leadership

Ethical leaders adhere to certain values and beliefs irrespective of whether they are in the home or office. In essence, ethical leaders are motivated and guided by the inherent dignity and rights of other people.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is a style of leadership that motivates, encourages, and inspires employees to contribute to company growth. Leadership expert James McGregor Burns first described the concept of transformational leadership in a 1978 book entitled Leadership. Although Burns’ research was focused on political leaders, the term is also applicable for businesses and organizational psychology.

Leading by Example

Those who lead by example let their actions (and not their words) exemplify acceptable forms of behavior or conduct. In a manager-subordinate context, the intention of leading by example is for employees to emulate this behavior or conduct themselves.

Leader vs. Boss

A leader is someone within an organization who possesses the ability to influence and lead others by example. Leaders inspire, support, and encourage those beneath them and work continuously to achieve objectives. A boss is someone within an organization who gives direct orders to subordinates, tends to be autocratic, and prefers to be in control at all times.

Situational Leadership

Situational leadership is based on situational leadership theory. Developed by authors Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard in the late 1960s, the theory’s fundamental belief is that there is no single leadership style that is best for every situation. Situational leadership is based on the belief that no single leadership style is best. In other words, the best style depends on the situation at hand.

Succession Planning

Succession planning is a process that involves the identification and development of future leaders across all levels within a company. In essence, succession planning is a way for businesses to prepare for the future. The process ensures that when a key employee decides to leave, the company has someone else in the pipeline to fill their position.

Fiedler’s Contingency Model

Fielder’s contingency model argues no style of leadership is superior to the rest evaluated against three measures of situational control, including leader-member relations, task structure, and leader power level. In Fiedler’s contingency model, task-oriented leaders perform best in highly favorable and unfavorable circumstances. Relationship-oriented leaders perform best in situations that are moderately favorable but can improve their position by using superior interpersonal skills.

Management vs. Leadership


Cultural Models

In the context of an organization, cultural models are frameworks that define, shape, and influence corporate culture. Cultural models also provide some structure to a corporate culture that tends to be fluid and vulnerable to change. Once upon a time, most businesses utilized a hierarchical culture where various levels of management oversaw subordinates below them. Today, however, there exists a greater diversity in models as leaders realize the top-down approach is outdated in many industries and that success can be found elsewhere.

Action-Centered Leadership

Action-centered leadership defines leadership in the context of three interlocking areas of responsibility and concern. This framework is used by leaders in the management of teams, groups, and organizations. Developed in the 1960s and first published in 1973, action-centered leadership was revolutionary for its time because it believed leaders could learn the skills they needed to manage others effectively. Adair believed that effective leadership was exemplified by three overlapping circles (responsibilities): achieve the task, build and maintain the team, and develop the individual.

High-Performance Coaching

High-performance coaches work with individuals in personal and professional contexts to enable them to reach their full potential. While these sorts of coaches are commonly associated with sports, it should be noted that the act of coaching is a specific type of behavior that is also useful in business and leadership. 

Forms of Power

When most people are asked to define power, they think about the power a leader possesses as a function of their responsibility for subordinates. Others may think that power comes from the title or position this individual holds. 

Tipping Point Leadership

Tipping Point Leadership is a low-cost means of achieving a strategic shift in an organization by focusing on extremes. Here, the extremes may refer to small groups of people, acts, and activities that exert a disproportionate influence over business performance.

Vroom-Yetton Decision Model

The Vroom-Yetton decision model is a decision-making process based on situational leadership. According to this model, there are five decision-making styles guides group-based decision-making according to the situation at hand and the level of involvement of subordinates: Autocratic Type 1 (AI), Autocratic Type 2 (AII), Consultative Type 1 (CI), Consultative Type 2 (CII), Group-based Type 2 (GII).

Likert’s Management Systems

Likert’s management systems were developed by American social psychologist Rensis Likert. Likert’s management systems are a series of leadership theories based on the study of various organizational dynamics and characteristics. Likert proposed four systems of management, which can also be thought of as leadership styles: Exploitative authoritative, Benevolent authoritative, Consultative, Participative.

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