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The Grow Model of Coaching

Coaching has been around for many years now. It has become a key tool in the toolbox of leaders, managers and parents. I have been coaching people as part of my job for nearly 20 years and I’m often asked how you can coach someone; either personally or professionally. The last 30 years have seen many courses, books and videos; each with their own coaching model. I have liked and used some of them, including ‘The Grow Model of Coaching’. Some of them I would never use!

Coaching Models

Before I begin to look at a coaching model that you could use, I need to just impress upon you that, whichever model you choose to use, you will need to ensure that, as a coach, you are present and focused on your coachee and curious about them rather than being judgmental. Neither of these is easy sometimes, but essential.

The Grow Model | Eagle Training

The Grow Model

One of the most used coaching models is the GROW model; Goal, Reality, Options, What’s next. The model was made famous by Sir John Whitmore in his book Coaching for Performance. If you have worked with me before, you will know that I like frameworks to help me understand principles and I like the GROW model because it provides you with a framework to follow.

One of my most used resources is a website called Mindtools and they explain GROW like this:

A good way of thinking about the GROW Model is to think about how you’d plan a journey. First, you decide where you are going (the goal), and establish where you currently are (your current reality). You then explore various routes (the options) to your destination. In the final step, establishing the will, you ensure that you’re committed to making the journey, and are prepared for the obstacles that you could meet on the way.

So, let’s have a look at the model in a bit more detail.


When you are working with someone as a coach, it is vital that you start with an end in mind. You need the coachee, the person you are working with, to be absolutely clear about what it is that they want to achieve. When I am coaching, people will often give me an objective that is vague and general. My task as a coach is to unravel their thinking and come up with a specific outcome.
There are some guiding coaching questions that I use in this stage. They include:

  • What’s the purpose or goal of this conversation?
  • What would be the most valuable thing to focus on?
  • What would you like to work on?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • When are you going to achieve it?
  • What are the benefits for you in achieving this goal?
  • Who else will benefit and in what way?
  • What will it be like if you achieve your goal?
  • How will you know that the problem or issue is solved?
  • What will you see/hear/feel?
  • Does this goal conflict with any other goals or objectives?
  • How will achieving this goal fit with your overall career objectives?
SMARTER framework

Please note that I don’t necessarily ask all of these questions. Getting clarity on the coachee’s outcome is vital as it provides real focus and energy. It needs to follow the SMARTER framework, being:

  • Specific
  • Measurable/meaningful to them
  • Agreed/achievable
  • Realistic/resourced
  • Timed
  • Ethical/ecological (in balance with their other goals)
  • Reviewed


The next step in the process is to ask the coachee to self-evaluate and describe their current reality or situation. Do not miss this step in your coaching conversation; it’s important! In my experience, people will sometime try to solve a problem or reach a goal without fully considering where they are starting from. As a result, your coachee may miss some information that they need in order to reach their outcome. In this stage, it is important to avoid, or at least check, assumptions or emotive arguments that are being made by the coachee.

Again, there are some useful coaching questions that you can ask your coachee:

  • What is happening now (what, who, when, and how often)? Please be careful using the “Why” question as this may cause the coachee to think they need to defend themselves in some way
  • What is the effect or result of this/what problems is this causing you?
  • What steps/actions have you taken so far?
  • What is working well for you right now?
  • What can you control in this situation?
  • What is moving you toward your goal?
  • What is getting in the way?


Once you and your coachee have explored the current reality, it’s time to determine what is possible – meaning all of the possible options for reaching their objective. Please avoid the trap that I fell into in my early years as a leadership coach, which was to tell them what I thought they should do. “If I were you I would……” is not a phrase that great coaches use before they get the coachee to offer suggestions first. Remember that as a coach your role is to guide without actually making decisions for the coachee.

Here are some useful questions to use in this stage:

  • What could you do right now or in the next 24 hours?
  • What else could you do?
  • What could you do differently?
  • What would be the advantages/disadvantages of doing that?
  • What effect would doing that have on achieving your goal?
  • What resources would you need?
  • Which of those resources do you have available to you? How could you get the ones that you don’t have yet?

What’s next?

This step is sometimes referred to as ‘wrap up’ or ‘will’. Having explored the current reality and exploring possible options, the coachee should now have a good idea of how they can achieve their desired goal or outcome.

This final step is where, as the coach, you get the coachee to think about possible barriers and how to overcome them. It’s also the phase in the process that you get them to commit to taking action and timeframes in which they will take the actions they have identified.

Useful coaching questions to ask in this step include:

  • What’s the next thing that you are going to do?
  • What else are you going to do?
  • When are you going to do that?
  • How committed are you to doing that?
  • What could stop you and how will you get over that barrier?
  • How will you keep yourself motivated?
  • When/how will you review your progress?

The final step is to agree on a date when you will review their progress. This will provide some accountability, and allow them to change his approach if the original plan isn’t working.

As I said at the start of this blog, the GROW model is a useful framework to base your coaching conversations on and I have used it many times. If you have an interest in coaching, you might also want to explore how NLP provides some really helpful strategies for coaching. If you would like more information I would recommend that you look at Ian McDermott at International Teaching Seminars (ITS). Ian has coached me many times and I have always found my sessions with him to be incredibly useful.

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