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 of 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 is a form of guided inquiry that encourages parents to ask questions without a personal agenda. Socratic questioning can also be used by teachers in the classroom to better understand their students’ perspectives.

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. 

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