A coach has a number of tools at his disposal. Perhaps one of the most popular is the GROW model, a simple yet powerful framework for structuring a coaching session. GROW is an acronym standing for Goal – Reality – Options – Will. Here are some practical tips for using this technique.

The G-R-O-W Model unpacked.

Begin with the end in mind – Steven Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People )

Goals (what we are aiming for)

First things first. Help your client define and agree the goal or outcome to be achieved in a way that is specific, measurable and realistic. Whilst doing this keep the following on mind:

  • It is sometimes good to start with a general topic and then focus down on a specific goal if the client is unsure.
  • The goal must be within the client’s control.
  • Get the client to read out aloud the goal.
  • “What do you want?” – be specific.
  • “How will you know that you have achieved it?” – measurable.
  • “When do you want to achieve it by?”
  • “How will it benefit you or others?”
  • Bottom line – use SMART goals.

Setting good goals is so important that I will devote a whole blog to ‘good goals, bad goals‘.

Reality (exploring the present reality) – uses the left (facts etc) brain

Next, ask your client to describe their Current Reality. This is a very important step – too often, people try to solve a problem without fully considering their starting point, and often they are missing some of the information they need to solve the problem effectively. As the client articulates his or her Current Reality, the solution may start to emerge.

Sometimes a coach needs to start in Reality if the client doesn’t know what he wants. Use questions like:

  • What have you done specifically so far to achieve your goal?
  • What challenges have you met and overcome?
  • What other challenges do you expect to meet?
  • What is happening now?
  • What, who, when, how often?
  • What is the effect or result of that?

Learn from what the client is good at and has done well in. Narrow things down to be more specific.

Options (stretching beyond what the client has tried or thought about before) – uses the right (intuitive, free thinking) brain

Once your client has explored the Current Reality, it is time to explore what is possible – meaning, all the many possible options available for solving the problem. As a coach you might need to reframe the transition from left brain to right brain – could include taking some deep breaths. Use questions like:

  • What (else) could you do?
  • How do you imagine things could be?
  • What if this or that constraint were removed?
  • Draw out options – what else …, what if … etc. Push for one more.
  • What factors will you use to weigh up the option?
  • A good question where the client is struggling to come up with ideas is “what would you tell your best friend to do if …? etc”

Will / Way Forward (gaining commitment from the client towards taking action)

By examining Current Reality and exploring the Options, your client will now have a good idea of how he or she can achieve their Goal. That’s great – but in itself, this may not be enough! So your final step as coach is to get your client to commit to specific actions. In so doing, you will help him or her will and motivation. Use questions like:

  • What are the options and benefits?
  • Which option would be fastest / easiest / preferred?
  • What might stop you?
  • And how will you overcome it
  • What else will you do?
  • When will you take action? – be specific.
  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how likely are you to …?
  • Summarise, repeat the actions as you go through the process.
  • It is also good to get the client to summarise the agreed actions at the end of the session.

Remember this will probably not be a linear process. You may need to repeat some or all of the steps a number of times, perhaps in a later session.

In this or any coaching technique, the two most important skills for a coach are the ability to ask good questions, and effective listening. We will cosider these two aspects in greater detail in the next blog. But for now, remember not to ask closed questions such as “Did that cause a problem?” Instead, do ask open questions like “What affect did that have?” Be prepared with a list of questions to for each stage of the G-R-O-W process. Listen well and let your “client” do most of the talking. Remember that silence is valuable thinking time: you don’t always have to fill silence with the next question.

Part III in the Coaching series will be “Asking questions“.