Coaching for Performance: The GROW Model

Coaching continues to gain exponential traction in leadership circles. Executives, pastors, and organizational leaders are finding increasing value in receiving coaching and utilizing coaching as a developmental tool with their employees. In his book, Coaching for Performance, John Whitmore not only creates a compelling case for coaching, but offers a practical model: The G.R.O.W. coaching model.

Goal Setting – A coaching session begins by clarifying the goal for the session itself. Taking this crucial first step enables coaches to work from the leader’s agenda (the person their coaching) rather than forcing the coach’s agenda. To establish a clear objective for the session, Whitmore encourages coaching questions such as:

  • What would you like to get out of this session?
  • I have half an hour for this, where would you like to have got to by then?
  • What would be the most helpful thing for you to take away from this session?

Reality – Coaches continue the process by addressing reality. This involves asking questions to clarify the leader’s situation. Because coaches must be as objective as possible, they must ask questions that increase awareness of the leader’s current reality while at the same time being aware of the internal factor’s that can distort the coach’s and leader’s perception of reality. Whitmore offers the following examples as reality questions:

  • What do you feel when summoned unexpectedly to the boss’s office?
  • What emotions are you left with following the recent round of redundancies?
  • What do you think you are afraid of?
  • In what ways do you inhibit your potential?
  • Can you give me a rating on a scale of one to ten for your level of confidence in your ability to give a good presentation this afternoon?

Options – Next, the coach asks, “What options do you have?” Whitmore observes, “The purpose of the OPTIONS stage is not to find the ‘right’ answer but to create and list as many alternative courses of action as possible. The quantity of options is more important at this stage than the quality and feasibility of each one.” The coach isn’t providing the answers, but rather drawing them out of the leader by the questions he or she asks. Whitmore further encourages coaches to ask leaders “What if” so that they can “sidestep the censorship of the rational mind” and unleash more creative thought. Examples of Option questions include:

  • What if you had a large enough budget?
  • What if you had more staff?
  • What if you knew the answer? What would it be?
  • What if that obstacle did not exist? What would you do then?

What – Finally, coaches ask, “What will you do?” This concluding step in the coaching process aims to “convert a discussion into a decision.” It represents the “next step(s)” the leader will take after the coaching session. The following questions can lead to a thorough answer of “what”:

  • What are you going to do?
  • When are you going to do it?
  • Will this action meet your goal?
  • What obstacles might you meet along the way?
  • Who needs to know?
  • What support do you need?
  • How and when are you going to get that support?
  • What other considerations do you have?
  • Rate on a 1-10 scale the degree of certainty you have that you will carry out the actions agreed.
  • What prevents it from being a 10?

Whitmore’s coaching model provides a relevant pathway for coaching others toward growth. What part of the GROW model challenges you the most? What do you like most about the GROW model?