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The GROW model

The GROW model is a great formula to use in coaching sessions. When coaches hear about the model they often cry, "But that’s what I already do!" If your coaching session is feeling stuck then dig out the GROW model.
What is it?

The Grow model grew out of best practice of successful coaches. It was advocated by Sir John Whitmore in his classic coaching book, "Coaching for Performance."

The GROW model presents a way of identifying an issue, working on the issue and finding a way forward. It stands for...

G - Goal - what is the goal of the session?
R - What’s the reality
O - What options are worth considering?
W - Wrap up the session.


The topic is actually the starting point. The GROW model should be the T-GROW model. Before you find the goal, establish the topic. This can relate to the longer term coaching goals that the client is working on. Be clear on this before moving onto the next stage. The topic will give the overall context to the coaching.


A goal sounds obvious doesn’t it? However many coaches find themselves caught up in a coaching session. At the end of it they're not sure whether it's been successful or not. The first step is to establish the coaching theme (topic). The second is to set the goal of the coaching session.

What's the difference between a topic and a goal?

Simply speaking a goal is something you can achieve within a coaching session. Imagine a client wants to improve their presentation skills. Is this a topic or a goal? Ask yourself, will they be able do so within one session? It’s unlikely that a client will improve their presentation skills in one session. Therefore 'improving presentation skills' is a topic.

So what is a goal?

Using the same example around presentation skills - what would be achievable in a session? If a client wanted to develop a plan of action around their presentation skills - then this is a GOAL. This is something they can achieve in the coaching session.


The R of the Grow model stands for REALITY. Before you can achieve your goal. You first need to know where you are. Imagine trying to navigate to Scotland using a map. It doesn't matter how good the map is. If you don’t know your starting point you won’t get far.

In NLP 'reality' is referred to as the 'present state'. The job of the coach is to ask clarifying questions. Don't judge, don't try to fix. Just focus on the where the client sees themselves. The purpose is to become clear of the starting point.


Once you know where you are (Reality) then it's time to look at the OPTIONS. It's great to really brainstorm at the options stage. This isn't a time to restrict ideas, it's a time to expand ideas. Find out what is available for the client to do. In the example of the presentation skills the options might be
  • To go on a presentation skills course
  • To watch people who are good at presenting
  • To prepare fully before a presentation
  • To practice in front of a mirror
  • To take lessons in breathing techniques
The Wrap up

Finally the W of the GROW model stands for WRAP-UP. This is when the client agrees on an option and commits to take action. So using our example the client might decide that a presentation skills course is the answer. If that's the case then this would be the action for them to take before the next session.

It’s not linear

The GROW model is not a strictly linear process. You can move around it as you clarify things. It's quite likely that when you get to 'WRAP-UP' you will return to REALITY and/or OPTIONS to move things forward.

An example

Here's a 2 minute speed-coaching session using the GROW model. My husband was the guinea-pig. It went like this

Me : What area would you like to discuss?
Hubby: I'd like to do some more exercise (Topic)
Me: And what would you like out of the coaching session? (Question to establish the goal.)
Hubby: I'd like to commit to take some regular exercise.
Me: Where are you now when it comes to exercise? (Reality question)
Hubby: I'm not running as regularly as I'd like. I'm not doing some kind of exercise every day.
Me: So if you'd like to commit to take regular exercise (the goal of the session) what are your options?
Hubby: I've got a heart-rate monitor I could learn how to use. I could get the bike serviced. I could try a bit of running. I could find an event in the future that I could aim for.
Me: Out of all of these options which are you committed to taking forward? (Narrowing down the options).
Hubby: I'd like to find an event to aim for. There's a 60 mile cycle ride coming up in 3 months time I'd like to aim for that. I'd also like to work out how to use my heart-rate monitor, as that would get me out as well.
Me: so what will you do between now and the next time we talk? (Wrap-up)
Hubby: I'll call John to find out when the cycle event is and I'll get the application form filled in. I'll also spend half an hour tonight working out my heart-rate monitor.

Summary The GROW model isn't rocket science. It's basic coaching. Adapt it to suit your own style of coaching and enjoy using it.

about the author
Liz Scott is a successful leadership coach working in the South West. She coaches head teachers, leadership teams and senior leaders in the police.

Along with her husband, Stuart Newberry, Liz founded Coaching Connect to support coaches across the country

more info
Articles of interest
Smart Goals
Sir John Whitmore and coaching during a recession
Sir John Whitmore and coaching around purpose and meaning
Sir John Whitmore and scalpel-like coaching questions
Life Coaching Skills

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