Learning outcomes:

  • Adopt the four-stage questions-based model to help individuals and teams to design their own solutions.
  • Use the model as a framework for gathering and assessing the goals, challenges, options and potential solutions without offering specific advice.
  • Document both long and short-term goals and determine the best way forward to achieve these goals.
  • Identify the options available and the actions required to achieve the goals.


The grow model was designed in the 1980s by performance coach, Sir John Whitmore. It is a simple yet highly effective tool that can be used when coaching members of your team. The model is questions-based and is designed to help the person you are coaching to think through things for themselves and to be solution-driven. It helps to empower and motivate them to move forward in the achievement of their goals.

The model

GROW stands for:

How it works

To understand how it works, think about this simple example. Imagine you are planning a holiday. You would follow these four steps:

How to use the tool

One of the advantages of the GROW model is that you do not have to be an expert in the person’s specific challenge or situation. The model offers a framework for you to draw out goals, challenges, options and potential solutions without having to offer specific advice. As the coach you are the facilitator and are there to help the person draw their own conclusions. The person is more likely to be more motivated and driven to act on their own solutions, which is one of the reasons why the model is so effective.

Step 1 – Establish the goal

The first step is to establish the goal. It may be a long-term goal that will be worked on over a number of sessions, as it needs to be broken down into smaller sub-goals or actions. Or, it may be a simple goal where the actions required for achieving it can be determined in just one coaching session.

As outlined in a number of our goal setting articles, to be effective a goal needs to be “SMART”; that is, it needs to be specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and time bound. The clearer and more defined the goal, the better the chance of achieving it. You might find that the person needs help defining a specific goal that stems from a vague desire to change a behaviour or situation.

Here is a selection of questions you can ask to help define both long-term and short-term goals:

Step 2 – Determine the current reality

Next, it is important to establish a starting point, or a baseline to build on. Your role is to help the person to self-evaluate and to identify what has been holding them back in the past. This is an important step in the process, as often people will move forward without fully understanding their current situation and then find vital information has been missed. Frequently, you will find solutions and options start to present themselves as the current situation is explored.

This stage might be confronting for some people, as the reality of the current situation may be worse than they thought or wanted to believe. It is important not to dwell on what has happened in the past, but to use these past experiences as a means to gather valuable information on patterns of behaviour and to identify potential obstacles.

Following are some of the questions that we find are useful during this stage:

Step 3 – Explore the options

Now is the time to start brainstorming all of the possible options for achieving the goal. It is important to explore all of the possible options, to start with a broad menu and then narrow it down to best ones after discussing each in turn. You may be able to offer some suggestions, but essentially you want the person to come up with as many as possible.

Use this step to guide the person and to help them find direction without making decisions for them. During this process it is also important to think about what might stand in the way and what obstacles might be encountered. These need to be considered carefully and potential solutions found to minimise the affect they may have on the person’s ability to achieve the goal.

Questions that can help during this phase of the model include:

Step 4 – Establish the will or way forward

The last step in the model is to formulate an action plan once you have decided on the best option. This step determines how the goal is going to be achieved. It is important that the person commits to specific actions in order to move towards the goal. Usually at this point a follow-up session is organised and this will then create a time frame and deadline for these actions to be completed. With a clear plan the person’s motivation is increased and the chance of successfully achieving the goal is vastly increased.

The following questions will help to formulate a clear plan of action:

Using the model

The GROW model is a proven tool that is widely used for coaching individuals. We find that while it is highly effective for this purpose, it has uses beyond just coaching. We use the GROW model extensively in personal planning, and have used it very effectively when working to lift the performance of teams. The key points remain the same: set the goal, determine the current reality, explore the options and then commit to a plan and way forward.[/wlm_ismember]

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