GROW is the coaching model made famous by John Whitmore’s book ”Coaching for performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose – The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership ”. This book originally published in 2002 is essential reading to anyone interested in coaching and probably the most quoted book in the academic studies of coaching. In Google Scholar, the book has been referenced 1294 times to date and according to Amazon, sold over 500,000 copies. I came across this book when I first started coaching studies in the University of East London and since then have recommended it to many. The book describes the concept of GROW – Goal, Reality, Options, and Way forward. The model itself is very useful behavioural coaching approach for turning issues into action.

In practice, the steps follow quite naturally yet they overlap easily – speaking of a goal quickly translates to talking about current state of affairs and then jumping to available options. Where does coaching then add value here if it is so natural? Coaches role is to chair the dicussion especially in the beginning and by relevant questioning and therefore provide the structure for the discussion to bring awareness about the topic. The art is in the details – noticing the cues for hesitance, reflecting strong faith on client’s ability to arrive at the solution, having the courage to probe on seemingly sensitive topics and to be disciplined about the selected approach. Lazy coaching is worth no coaching at all. It is just a chat.

With GROW model, I find it very useful to spend quite long time in the Goal part to get the client to really describe and internalise the desired outcome. Depending on the significance of the goal, it may be useful to steer the conversation to explore the impact on different stakeholders. In the coaching situation it may appear that the client is jumping already to the consequent steps and the easiest way out would be to let the client lead. However, I see it as the coach’s duty to ensure that the client truly undestands the implications of their goals; for example what and how much they are ready to give up to get to their goal? Later in the process you will see that time invested here pays off in terms of quality of decisions taken in the course of the coaching.

Reality step looks into now – what are the facts? This step opens also the opportunity to look at the resources available. Knowledge, skills, strengths, networks, support and the possible lack of them. Now that we know what we have, how to close the gap? Options step invites to discuss different roads available to the goal. The coach’s duty here is to guide the client to perform SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) on each option. In one end, there is the option not to do anything at all whereas at the other end, it is sometimes useful to have also the most outrageous option listed out to unblock creative thinking.

“Way forward” step answers the question “What will you do?”. Here, depending on the subject matter and the type of person, it may be useful to also ask “when” and “how” questions about the implementation. To reveal possible threats, you may wish to ask questions about what is preventing the plan from happening or to indicate in scale from 0-10 the likelihood of the client implementing the plan. If it is anything less than 10, it is useful to discuss the tumbling blocks and ways to overcome them.

Now there you have the concept of GROW! In Australia, the colleagues (Growth Coaching International) formed the additional letters T and H to GROW. T stands for Tactics (when and how) and H for Habits. Like mentioned before, I have incorporated the tactics under the Way forward step. Discussing how to make the desired change permanent will certainly add value when a sustainable change is required rather than a one-off action.

Have you used the GROW method, what are the realisations you have made about it?