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GROW your approach to coaching

What’s the Big Idea?

During the 1980’s Sir John Whitmore, Timothy Gallwey and Graham Alexander created the (now world renowned) GROW coaching model. It draws on methods developed by the trio which have since been applied in a wide range of settings around the world. In this =mc Big Idea we explore how the GROW model works and how you can use it to empower individuals, teams and whole organisations to be more successful. It is particularly useful for teams working in a hybrid model where you’re not always face to face with your colleagues (more on this below).

How does GROW work?

The GROW coaching model provides a framework that coach and coachee work through in a one-to-one conversation. Ultimately it helps the coachee determine their goals or issues for themselves (and what they want to do about it). The process encourages exploration from a number of different perspectives while remaining solution-oriented. As a result, barriers are anticipated before they are encountered and discussions convert to actions. This makes success far more likely.

Now that many of us are adapting to a hybrid model of working, using a framework to help guide conversations can be extremely effective. We know that not being face to face with our colleagues every day means we don’t necessarily see their challenges in real time as they come up. It’s harder to work out whether a team member needs help, (and what kind of help) from a conversation online or over the phone. Adopting a coaching style and using a framework like GROW can help reveal challenges and their solutions that may otherwise go unspoken. That way it leads the coachee to discover their own solution to the issue, empowering them, and reinforces the impact of team working despite not being in the same location.

Why is GROW so effective?

Taking a coach approach to managing people is more than just spending time talking one-to-one. There are a number of reasons that the GROW model is increasingly popular:

  1. It allows the coachee to take responsibility (while being supported)

As a coach, you help others to discover for themselves what is working and what needs to change, prompting deeper awareness and responsibility. Fundamentally, this process makes others responsible for taking the actions they have identified for themselves. This is proven to be way more effective than merely trying (and ultimately forgetting) what they have been told to do by you or somebody else. A skilled coach will empower individuals to build confidence and capability in solving their own problems.

  1. It promotes engagement across teams and organisations

Coaching can have a transformative effect on whole organisations. By facilitating teams to put in place their own solutions, people are more engaged and likely to stay on – because they have had a hand in the decisions that affect them. In turn, by adopting a culture of coaching, you are then free to step back and focus on more strategic activities. Ultimately, everyone achieves more through self-directed learning and self-discovery which in turn unlocks abilities and potential.

Coaching in pairs

  1. It can be used in a wide range of situations

The GROW framework can be used in conversations, video calls, meetings and everyday leadership – it’s not necessarily something you need to set aside a specific time or location for.

What’s the process?

At each stage of the GROW process, you guide the coachee through various questions, helping them to discover how to meet their goals or desired outcomes.  Sometimes the process is quite straightforward, other times it can take a little longer. On occasion it may go back and forth between stages before definitive actions take place. Critically, you need to listen actively in order to know when to move on. You may ask another question, move to a different stage or pause, probe, clarify, reflect, summarise, go backwards or delve deeper. These are all skills needed to be a perceptive and effective coach.

GROW stages

To illustrate how a coaching journey relates to the GROW stages here is an example of climbing a mountain:

GROW model


Goals and Aspirations This is the end point – such as climbing to the top of a mountain – that the coachee wants to reach. You help the coachee to define the goal so that it is very clear to the coachee when they have achieved it through questions such as; Why this mountain? Why now?  What will it feel like when you get there? When will you have done it by?


Reality The Reality stage is concerned with where the coachee is at this moment in time in relation to their goal – at the bottom of the mountain looking up. You will help the coachee discover what issues or challenges are being faced in reaching their goal – both internal and external – and how far away their goal is.

At this stage remind the coachee of previous attempts at climbing mountains with questions such as:

–      What did you try?

–      What was successful?

–      What was not succesful? Why not?

Once you know what skills, experience and resources the coachee has, you can explore further how reach the goal.


Options Before action plans are made, you help the coachee to explore all of their options. (E.g. the many pathways they could take up the mountain.)

Help the coachee uncover the options that they currently have available to them as well as the possibilities, their strengths and the resources they either do or do not have to hand that would be helpful.

Valuable questions at this stage would be:

–      What have you tried?

–      What has worked in this kind of situation before?

–      Who do you know that has overcome this mountain before or others like it?

It is also valid to consider the option of doing nothing or going home! At this stage there is no commitment, merely an exploration of what’s possible.

Obstacles There may be obstacles stopping the coachee getting from their current reality to where they want to be. (E.g. rocks in the pathways up the mountain.)

Ask questions that help the coachee uncover the internal and external barriers preventing them from reaching their goal.

Each obstacle should be analysed. Consider what can be done to overcome each one with questions such as:

–      Why do you see that as an obstacle for this particular pathway?

–      What have you done in the past to get over this type of rock?

–      Do you have all the skills you need to overcome it?

–      Who could help you overcome it?


Will Now the coachee is aware of their options, and how hard it may be to get over the obstacles involved, establish if they still want to achieve the goal. (E.g. do they have the will to make it happen?)

This stage initiates another reality check with questions such as:

–      Now you’ve weighed up all the options, and the pros and cons, are you still committed to the climb? 

–      How much do you want to achieve it on a scale of 1-10?

–      Do you have the will to pursue one of the pathways despite the potential rocks in the way?  If not, why not?


Way Forward The options generated above now need to be converted into actions, moving the coachee incrementally closer to their goal.

Explore the next steps needed to accomplish their goal with questions such as:

–      What steps are you actually going to take?

–      What will you do first?

–      When will you do it?

–      What order are you doing things in?

–      What help or hiking equipment might you need?

Need more help?

=mc’s Coaching Skills for Managers programme explores this tool further as well as other skills needed to be an impactful coach.

We also offer 1-2-1 coaching for individuals looking for a personalised learning session. Contact us to find out more about this process.

=mc has a team of unrivalled coaches with extensive experience of coaching individuals and groups from entry level to executive, in person and remotely.

These exceptional coaches, trainers and organisational consultants are able to assist with a range of challenges concerning communications, team-working, leadership, strategy, change and personal effectiveness.

Among our recent assignments are:

  • supporting a Chief Executive to develop their influencing and networking skills
  • facilitating the development of a team of senior managers at a national charity through group and individual coaching
  • supporting the development of managers across numerous local authorities to take a coaching approach with their staff, often working remotely
  • enabling new managers with their development and taking a step up into their new roles through individual coaching
  • coaching new leaders to hone their project management and time management skills

=mc consultants have worked with many of the UK’s leading charities, local authorities, higher education institutes and non-profit organisations on their training and organisational development. We’re proud to be helping or have helped, Marie Curie, UNICEF UK, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Hackney Council, WWF, Mind, University of Reading, and Historic England.

To find out how we’ve helped these organisations achieve their big ideas – or how we can help you with coaching or coaching skills – call Yvette Gyles, Director, on +44 (0) 20 7978 1516 or email

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Philly Graham

About Philly Graham

Philly specialises in communications, leadership and management development and personal effectiveness. She is an accredited coach, action learning set facilitator and a CIPD Learning and Development Associate. Philly’s career...