Developed in 1984 by Graham Alexander, Alan Fine and Sir John Whitmore, GROW is an acronym for a four part approach to structure a coaching and/or performance conversation. The four phases are: Goals, Reality, Options and Wrap-up. We appreciate the direct and concise nature of this approach as well as its clear and logical progression. This linear approach grounds the coaching/conversation and allows leaders to be, more, in the moment with their team members.
Leaders may find the GROW model most effective during performance conferences, coaching or mentoring conversations or when you suspect your employees could use a boost of morale. We know the most engaged employees are those who feel supported and understood at work. We see more and more research that which indicates this can include both career growth as well as talent development. One study from the Center of Creative Leadership (2019) suggests that a successful leadership development strategy includes a variety of approaches, sustaining support, focus on the reality of the workplace, engagement and the use of assessments. Each of these elements can be found in the GROW model.
Several scripts and questions to frame each phase of the GROW model include:
- What do you want to achieve from this coaching session?
- What goal do you want to achieve?
- What would you like to happen with ______?
- What do you really want?
- What is happening now (what, who, when, and how often)? What is the effect or result of this?
- How would you describe what you did?
- Where are you now in relation to your goal?
- On a scale of one to ten, where are you?
- What are your options?
- What do you think you need to do next?
- What could be your first step?
- What do you think you need to do to get a better result (or closer to your goal)?
- How are going to go about it?
- What do you think you need to do right now?
- How will you know when you have done it?
- Is there anything else you can do?
An example of this model in practice is outlined below. The context is a recent engagement with a high potential employee looking to expand and maximize her role.
We began by exploring what was meant by expansion and maximizing. We discussed what an expanded role might look like, how she would define success and what would be the metrics that would determine that she had achieved her desired outcome.
Next, we conducted a ‘gap’ analysis. We compared where she believed she was compared to where, ideally, she would like to be. Part of this analysis was using scaling questions. We asked a number of questions to support her in defining a rich description of her current place and to visualize what it would look like in the, more, ideal place.
We, then, discussed tangible options and actions that might both propel her toward achieving her ideal place and, perhaps, get in the away.
We arrived at the action planning phase! Given the detailed description of the ideal state, the client developed 3 actionable steps and a tangible timeline toward expanding her role and achieving more fulfillment at work.
In conclusion, the GROW model is one of the most well-known coaching models used within organizations. GROW coaching conversations unlock potential and increase performance by increasing both motivation and self-confidence. Learning how to ask effective questions in a carefully structured way promotes deeper awareness and greater responsibility. This in turn leads to practical steps to accomplish goals.
By Drs. Sheila Boysen, Lesley Page and Michael Cherry