The GROW model: How coaching can improve team performance
One of the most prominent frameworks employed by executive coaches, learn how to better yourself and progress your career using this simple yet powerful growth model.
If you’re a business leader, getting the most out of people is a hugely important part of an organisation’s success. When employees have the ability to work at optimum levels, they’re able to make better decisions, solve difficult problems, learn new and effective skills, and progress their careers in many different ways.
One of the methods used to improve performance and achieve such goals is the GROW model. For over four decades, the GROW coaching model has proved one of the most popular and widely used of its kind. Simple and methodical yet extremely powerful, it’s designed to instil leadership qualities in individuals and teams across the globe – developing employees that are more productive, self-motivated and fulfilled.
Here, we take a look at the GROW model in more detail, touching on how it works, how it can benefit people, and how to use it within a team.
Developed in the 1980s by Sir John Whitmore and his colleagues at Performance Consultants International, and then detailed in his 1992 book Coaching for Performance, the GROW model came about after Whitmore sought to find more effective ways to lead in business. Since then, it’s created strong leaders and helped to improve performance in various disciplines, cultures and sectors.
The model offers a framework with general questions to elicit goals, obstacles, options and more in a way that’s non-didactic and doesn’t force coaches into any particular direction. Thus, coaches aren’t viewed as simply having ready-made answers for their clients. Instead, the best coaches ask powerful questions that open clients up to their own potential in a solution-focused framework; clients, or team members, find the solutions for themselves without being spoon-fed.
When used in an organisation, it allows for the growth of all its employees, starting with leaders. The established coaching culture trickles down, helping everyone to become more accountable for their actions in all directions.
How does the GROW model work?
The GROW coaching model consists of four steps, with the process often being likened to a journey:
Goal – where are you going?
Reality – where are you coming from?
Options – chart different routes and consider how you’ll get there to help you to choose the option that’s best suited to you, while navigating common obstacles along the way
Will – chart the process and ensure your motivation and commitment to make the journey is optimised.
Step 1: Establishing the Goal
For this first step, you and your client or team member will define the goal of the coaching, including in both the long term (the central theme of the trajectory) and the short term (the goal for every session).
Such goals should be SMART, i.e. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
To help identify the goals, ask yourself the following questions:
What’s important to you when it comes to [theme]?
What will reaching the goal give you?
What do you want to achieve in [theme]?
How will you know you’ve reached your goal?
How will you know the problem has been solved?
Step 2: Examining the Current Reality
The second step involves becoming aware of the team member’s situation. The coach’s role here is to get the team member to open up and self-evaluate, to identify challenges and obstacles that have been holding them back.
This step often reveals the team member’s underlying fears and convictions, which can then be addressed and worked on during coaching sessions.
Example questions to help them examine their reality include:
What’s happening to you now?
When and how often does it happen?
What is the result of that?
Why is this theme a problem?
What are concrete examples of this problem?
What’s been going wrong so far?
What went well?
Is this always a problem or are there situations in which it isn’t?
What are the defining factors? What can make the difference?
What have you done so far?
Step 3: Exploring the Options
Now you’ll start to think up some ideas that can contribute to the solution. By all means the coach can offer some suggestions, and guide them when they need direction, but the team member should do most of the talking. You shouldn’t make any decisions for them.
Try asking them some of the following questions to get them to explore options:
What else could you do?
What if this or that constraint were removed? Would that change things?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
What factors or considerations will you use to weigh the options?
What do you need to stop doing to achieve this goal?
What obstacles stand in your way?
Step 4: Establishing the Will
The final step is to get the team member to commit to specific actions to achieve their goal, which then becomes a plan of action. This helps the team member to maximise their will, boosting their motivation in a way that the goal becomes achievable.
Some useful questions to ask here include:
What exactly will you do to reach your goal and when?
What concrete step can you take NOW?
What steps come after?
Have all obstacles been considered?
How will you overcome your obstacles?
How motivated are you, on a scale from 1 to 10, to go for this option?
How can your surroundings support you?
Will this plan get you to your goal?
Will it solve the underlying problem, too?
How to use GROW within a team
The model can also be applied to teams to help them establish goals and put processes in place to ensure such goals are met. Whether it’s planning for a presentation or aiming to sell a certain number of a particular product, they can use this model.
The team begins with a clear measurable goal that everyone understands and agrees with. Writing down the goal and putting it somewhere visible ensures that everyone is working towards the same thing.
Now the team must ground themselves and take note of their current reality. Everyone must examine the situation at hand from all angles to fully understand their current context.
As a group, the team then creates several options to consider, coming up with as many as possible and even considering new methods and means they may not have tried before. They then collaborate, debate, and decide which options to pursue.
The team moves on to create clear plans that include actions, who will own these actions, and any applicable deadlines to meet the goal by. Share these actions with everyone on the team; this ensures greater accountability, with each team member knowing who is responsible for what and when in a clear, transparent way.
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