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Becoming a Coach-like Leader: Using GROW with your team

To inspire performance from your team members, you need to develop and improve your coaching skills. This four-step GROW model will help you in your coaching conversations.


I recently came across this analogy to what coaching is – “You might think of coaching like going on a road trip with a supportive passenger riding along with you. You are in control of the car and where it’s going – the same way you’re in control of your life, your destiny, your decisions, your future. As you drive, your coach accompanies you, assisting you on your journey to reach your destination.” Incidentally the first use of the term "coach" in connection with an instructor or trainer originated around 1830 in Oxford University, this was a slang term for a tutor who "carried" a student through an exam. The word "coaching" identified a process used to transport people from where they are to where they want to be.


In this blog post, you will learn how to "lead like a coach" so that your team is empowered to respond to change more effectively. Developed by Sir John Whitmore the GROW model will help you clarify your goals and create action plans to reach success. In other words, it’ll help you GROW. The GROW model is a simple yet effective approach to coaching your team. Learn and practice how to structure coaching conversations using the model's four pillars: Goal, (Current) Reality, Options, and Will (or Way Forward).


To continue using the previous analogy you can use GROW to think about how you would plan a journey. You start by deciding where you are heading (the goal), and then establish where you currently are (your current reality). You next explore the various routes (the options) to your destination. In the final step, you establish the will or the commitment to making the journey, and if you are prepared for any obstacles you may meet along the way.


GROW is a simple and straightforward process that can be applied to goal-setting and problem-solving for managerial coaches. The GROW model is an effective tool for bringing attention to the present, here and now and to focus on effective problem-solving.


Here are the four steps to the process:


1) Establish the Goal

The first step is to agree on the goal - ‘What is to be achieved?’. Determine the topic for discussion, the coachee’s/team member's objectives and the specific outcomes desired. Ensure that the goals are S.M.A.R.T - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Some sample questions include:

  • How would you like to use our time together?

  • What is it you want to achieve over the next 6 months?

  • What does that look like? Feel like? What would other people be saying to you once that is achieved?


2) Examine the Current Reality

Next, you will outline the reality of the situation and discuss any previous attempts to accomplish the goal. Be an excellent listener. Whilst being attentive and supportive, invite the team member to assess the situation for themselves, and you could use this opportunity to offer feedback and prompt examination of untested assumptions or limiting beliefs. Encourage the team member to imagine doing better at something – they will often surprise you. Here are some sample questions:

  • What is happening right now?

  • How have things gone this past week related to this goal?

  • Where are you now in relation to your goal? How far are you from your ideal?

  • How do you feel about your current situation?

  • What is the impact on you and your life?

  • What progress have you already made?

  • What’s standing in your way from making more progress?


3) Discover the Options

In the third stage, you will support the team member to explore as many good options as possible, with ideas coming mostly from the team member. Be ready to collaborate and offer suggestions to identify new ways of meeting the goal and/or overcoming the challenges. Typical questions include:

  • What ideas do you have?

  • What has worked for you in the past?

  • What haven’t you tried yet that might work this time?

  • What obstacles stand in your way?

  • What information, support or resources do you need and how can you get them?


4) Establish the Will

In this final stage, you will get the team member to commit to the plan or specific actions. Expect to remain flexible throughout the process, as goals and plans may need to be altered over time. In this stage, help them establish their will and boost their motivation. Use the following questions:

  • What will you do to achieve your goals?

  • How and when will you do it?

  • How will you know you’re on track?

  • What is the most important thing to do first/next?

  • What could stop you from moving forward? How will you overcome this?

  • How can you keep yourself motivated?

  • When do you need to review progress? Daily, weekly, monthly?

  • Who will you reach out to for support?

  • How will you hold yourself accountable?

  • How will you know you’ve been successful?

  • How committed are you to achieving this goal?


Now that you are familiar with the GROW model, try this activity to practice using the GROW model here are the four steps. Set time aside to practice this week.

  1. Make a plan to use the GROW model to discuss one of your direct report’s growth and development in a conversation sometime in the next week.

  2. Before the meeting, write down some potential questions you could ask your team member at each stage of GROW. Consider choosing from the list above questions or create your own.

  3. Following the meeting, spend a few minutes writing down what you and your team member discussed for each stage of GROW. What are the takeaways from this conversation? What is the plan moving forward? How will you support him/her? When are the next check-ins?

  4. Lastly, reflect on the conversation itself and your effectiveness as a coach. What went well? What would you like to improve next time?


Practice makes perfect, so continue to look for opportunities to apply the GROW model with your team and reflect on how each person responds to the questions in their own way. As you gain confidence, you will learn to adapt your approach to meet the needs of each team member and support everyone in the way that fits them best.


Reach out for a catch-up conversation, contact Karl Grech, Performance Coach & Leadership Trainer via email.



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