GROW Model: Coach Your Team and Make Them ‘GROW’!

Understanding and Applying the ‘GROW’ Model in Coaching Can Transform Your Team

As July 4 approaches, it’s a reminder that American innovators like Abraham Maslow have originated much of our business thinking. But we’ve also generated plenty of smart thinking this side of the Atlantic. The ‘GROW’ model is a Great British success story, that’s adopted worldwide. People have used ‘GROW’ in corporate coaching since the late 1980s. Have you considered embracing it in your business yet?

Coaching with ‘GROW’ helps you and your people become the best possible versions of you. Along the way ‘GROW’ also helps with important activities like goal setting and problem solving. And it doesn’t just benefit businesses. Teachers turn to ‘GROW’ to plan syllabuses and encourage students’ independent learning. NHS Trusts rely on it to shape their coaching conversations.

The ‘GROW’ model plays a key part in Making Business Matter’s soft skills offering. Our ‘GROW’ and Advanced ‘GROW’ Coaching Cards confirm our expertise as soft skills training providers. We also offer Coaching Skills Training and Executive Coaching courses involving the ‘GROW’ model. You’ll hear more about them later. But first, here’s an introduction to the world according to ‘GROW.’

What is the ‘GROW’ Model Template?

‘GROW’ is an acronym. It stands for Goal setting: current Reality: Options: and the Way forward.  ‘GROW’ is a simple, four-step process coaches can use to lead clients towards a goal. Or managers can use it with their teams. Even national football team managers!

We’ll talk more later in this context about the difference between leading and coaching. For now, bosses should appreciate they may be great at business, but not the best choice to coach staff.

Plant pot with MBM logo and Helping people grow slogan
GROW coaching can help people be the very best version of themselves



What are the Four Steps of the ‘GROW’ Model?

The Goal means the desired end point in your coaching conversation. It’s the reason you’re doing this. You need to define your goal specifically, so it’s clear when you achieve it. For best results, these goals should be ‘SMART’ – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

Reality is where you are now, your current situation. What do you see as the issues and the challenges you’re facing? How far are you from your goal? We’ll address how to work this out in a moment, by answering the GROW model coaching questions.

Options are the ways available to overcome the ‘GROW’ model’s other ‘O’s, the obstacles stopping you from reaching your goal. Once you identify the obstacles, you must work out how to tackle them and move on.

Way covers the steps that will take you to your goal.  Some other ‘W’s are also part of the planning process. Your goal needs to include what and why. Then there’s who, choosing the people for your team and your project partners, and when, your time schedule. Returning to the point about SMART working, your goals need to be time-bound.

‘GROW’ is brilliantly simple. You can apply all manner of expert thinking and knowledge to the scenario you’re solving. But complexity aside, the process remains the same. You start with an understanding of your reality.

New Manager coaching card titled GROW
Using the GROW acronym enables effective coaching

To Establish Reality, First We Need Clarity!

The ‘GROW’ Model Reality

The Reality stage involves being honest with yourself and your colleagues. On a scale of 1 to whatever, worst case to the desired goal, where do you see yourself?  Sorry, you can’t hope to move on if you’re unclear where you’re starting from. You’ve chosen your goal. Now you need to find how far away from it you are, and what you must do to get there.

What are the ‘GROW’ Model Coaching Questions?

There are various ‘GROW’ coaching questions you can use to establish Reality:

  • So what have you done so far towards achieving your goal?
  • What results have you had from what you’ve done?
  • Which things have worked up to now? What hasn’t worked?
  • Can you identify what’s holding you back?
  • What resources do you have that will help? And what other resources do you need?
  • Which skills do you have that will help you reach your goal? What other knowledge or skills do you need?
  • Is there someone you can bring in to help?

The coach’s skill lies in knowing which questions to use, and how much detail to go into.

What the ‘Grow’ Model Coach Does

GROW works in a similar way to working on your health or fitness. You could puzzle out the necessary stuff yourself, with the right mindset. But the results will come quicker with someone facilitating. In the ‘GROW’ model, this person is the coach.

Why is Coaching So Important?

Coaching using the ‘GROW’ model is one of the key approaches through which organisations develop leadership. Coaching is a recognised method of developing individuals’ capabilities to facilitate achievement of the organisation’s success. The CIPD’s recent Learning & Development Survey suggests 72% of UK organisations find coaching a highly effective development tool. It’s not clear why the rest don’t …

Leading isn’t the Same as Coaching

So How Do Leaders Use the ‘GROW’ Model With Their Teams?

This is where the difference between leading and coaching becomes clear. The ‘GROW’ model helps leaders identify a goal for a discussion session. And from they can work out what’s getting in the way, brainstorm ideas, and commit to concrete action.

group of white counters led by a green counter
The GROW model can help leaders identify a goal for the session

If the boss is sitting there being critical, people will likely feel inhibited about contributing. They won’t ‘GROW’ as individuals. Whereas in coaching, the coach is there to serve and bring out the best in people. There are times in business when you must direct or give answers. But coaching conversations are about other people’s learning – not your opinion or expertise.

The ‘GROW’ Model Has Something For Everyone

As we’ve said, businesses, academia, and healthcare are all using the ‘GROW’ model. Let’s have a look.

How Do Organisations Use the ‘GROW’ Model?

Organisations incorporate ‘GROW’ into their management processes and leadership models to engage people, inspire great performance and maximise productivity.

Are Any Famous Companies Using ‘GROW’?

Yes, they are. Google is among those using the ‘GROW’ model in their coaching conversations. They reportedly use it to help their managers be consistent, free from bias, and productive. But you don’t have to be a big tech company to use ‘GROW’. You can apply it in coaching conversations either offline or online, including in Zoom calls.

When Do You Use the ‘GROW’ Model?

You can apply the ‘GROW’ principles to any goal or challenge. It works for addressing technical problems, working out processes, shaping strategies, resolving relationships, and much more. Working groups and project teams can also use it.

Where Did the ‘GROW’ Model Come From?

John Whitmore, Alan Fine, and Graham Alexander developed the ‘GROW’ model in the late 1980s. It’s gone on to become a popular model for problem-solving, goal setting, and improving performance.

Does ‘GROW’ Really Work?

In a word, yes. The ‘GROW’ model improves business decision-making, problem-solving, and goal setting. It puts learning and enjoyment at the centre of performance. ‘GROW’ is a simple framework that is valued by leaders and coaches. You can use it for a catch-up on progress, team meetings, coaching sessions, or planning a change.

2 business people working together
The GROW model has been proven to be very effective in many scenarios

Getting the Best out of the ‘GROW’ Model

There is an established ‘GROW’ Coaching feedback model to get the best from a ‘GROW’ coaching session. Ask the team members the following questions:

  • What would you like to achieve out of this session or meeting?
  • Did you notice anything about your performance?
  • What went well or what challenged you?
  • May I tell you what I liked as coach?
  • If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
  • What will it be like when you can do that?
  • Can I make a suggestion? Can we discuss…?
  • What will you do about this in the future?

What Are the ‘GROW’ Model’s Limitations?

The ‘GROW’ model is task-focused, so it’s good in both work and sport situations. This simplicity is one of its strong points. However, it can miss some of the broader context. You need as much detail to hand as possible.

‘GROW’ is About Mentoring, Not Managing

This is important to remember. In its traditional application, the ‘GROW’ model assumes that the coach isn’t an expert in the client’s situation. This means the coach must act as a facilitator or mentor. Their role is helping the coachees select the best options, not offering advice or direction.

Are There Different Stages of Mentoring?

If you’re planning to have a series of ‘GROW’ sessions, this next point is significant. Successful mentoring relationships go through four stages: preparation, negotiating, enabling growth, and closure.

How Do You Achieve Closure in Mentoring?

Closure of mentoring relationship is about looking back and reviewing accomplishments. It also means looking forward to areas of continued growth and goals, and saying goodbye. The aim is to end on a high with a positive closure, leaving the mentees empowered.

We Haven’t Mentioned ‘GROW’ and Sales Yet

You’re right, we must. ‘GROW’ sales coaching is often seen as a luxury for large organisations. The slow take-up elsewhere maybe because most sales managers were hired for being great sales people. They never had the tools to help their people grow. Grow your people and they will grow the sales for you.

Sales forecast on digital tablet
The GROW model can also be applied to sales and sales teams

How Frequent Should Sales Coaching Sessions Be?

Ideally, the experts say sales coaching sessions should take place every two weeks and last for 45 minutes. That’s hard for field-based sales people. But with more and more salespeople and managers working from home, there’s clearly the opportunity to do it online.

‘GROW’ is Good Beyond Business Too

How Do You Use ‘GROW’ in Education?

The ‘GROW’ model provides a useful framework to allow students to set themselves a goal and work out how to achieve it. Schools can also use ‘GROW’ to implement a coaching culture, which will encourage children to become co-dependent learners. ‘GROW’ can help students become more engaged in their learning and take more individual initiative. And head teachers, department heads and their colleagues can use ‘GROW’ to make decisions about making changes.

GROW Model in Healthcare

We mentioned NHS trusts using ‘GROW’. Conversing using the ‘GROW’ model is widely recognised in healthcare as one of the best ways to get better at nondirective coaching. Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and its partners Wessex Region use the ‘GROW’ model in their coaching conversations. They see coaching as supporting students in actively participating in their own learning.

All Hands on Deck – Making Business Matter is Here to Help

Making Business Matter (MBM) offers ‘GROW’ coaching cards as part of its bestselling coaching tools range. MBM’s coaching cards are the most comprehensive selection available, with bigger decks and more choices than anywhere else.

The ‘GROW’ and Advanced ‘GROW’ Coaching Cards confirm Making Business Matter’s expertise as soft skills training providers.

Making Business Matter also provides extensive training in coaching skills. It’s detailed in the article by Kate Burrows on the website, The Ultimate Guide to Coaching Skills.

As Kate writes, coaching helps people reach their full potential by helping unlock their thinking. This process helps remove mental barriers, including those created by the person being coached.

The ‘GROW’ model helps flag up these barriers. As mentioned, this happens in the ‘O’ stage, when looking at the obstacles stopping you from reaching your goal. From there the talk moves to the Options available to overcome them.

Many definitions of coaching refer to teaching, telling, or advising. These imply the coach is an expert of some sort.  Making Business Matter’s view is clear – this is exactly what coaching is not! A coach facilitates learning, using their skills to help individuals improve their performance.

Making Business Matter’s Coaching Skills Training Course helps managers and leaders focus more energy on the really important stuff. The course helps you, as the coach, learn to be fully present in the conversation and ask the questions. You work on listening with such a high level of engagement that people know you care. As part of the course, you also learn about using the ‘GROW’ coaching model with your teams.

Making Business Matter’s ‘Executive Coaching’ Training Course also includes elements of the ‘GROW’ model. The course is delivered by people who have worked in UK grocery. Their backgrounds are either in supermarkets, or suppliers, or both. So they understand the challenges grocery people face and can help you overcome them, including by using GROW.

AND FINALLY… How to Make Your Business Really ‘GROW

Using the ‘GROW’ model can produce transformational outcomes. But it’s not a magic wand. The coach needs to be self-aware and focused. Here’s why:

  • Over relying on the ‘GROW’ model can make it difficult to move flexibly through coaching sessions. Especially if you keep coming back to one of the stages.
  • ‘GROW’ sets out a sequence, but coaching sessions don’t always go in straight lines!
  • As a coach, be prepared to be stumped by the answers your coachees come up with.
  • There’s more to coaching than asking questions. Like therapy, everyone in the session needs to really engage with the process.

To get the most out of using the ‘GROW’ model, you as the coach and the people being coached need to grasp the underlying principles. The first is awareness – what is this conversation about? How is it going to help us? The second is responsibility. What have you tried before? Where do you want to go?

The people being coached are the ones who are most important. Keep that in mind, and you’ll really see results.

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