The model originates from Sir John Whitmore, a pioneer in coaching and one of the people who successfully snuck in coaching from sports into business offices. This tool is elaborated further in his book Coaching for Performance and forms the basis in a logical order of questions that rise awareness and generate ownership.
Best suitable for
Coaches who want to practice their questioning skills and stay on a verbal level, clients who have a lot to explain
The mnemonic GROW is actually a guideline in the sequence of questioning:
- Goal setting for the session, short as well as long term
- Reality checking to explore the current situation
- Options and alternative strategies or courses of action
- What is to be done When, by Whom and the Will to do it.
This sequence assumes that it is desirable to visit all four stages, which is usually the case when tackling a new issue for the first time. Often, however, coaching will be used to progress a task or process that has been discussed before or is already under way. In such cases coaching may begin and end with any stage. Sometimes, a client may only be able to define a vague goal, until one has examined the reality in some detail. It will then be necessary to go back and redefine the goal. This is great and it shown that the method of coaching is working and the client is starting to generate awareness. Some coaches, beginners I would say, do not feel comfortable when this happens. Mostly because they have prepared for one thing and now they have to drop their agenda. But if you are working for the presumption that you stay present with the client and his transformations, and use your preparation for the session (which you dropped before the session) as a could not a must, you will be lighter, you will be able to notice more details and you will be able to offer more effectively a new perspective to your client. For defining goals is concerned, even a shapely defined one may be recognized to be wrong or inappropriate once the reality is clear. There are all kinds of goals, but what I mostly see are big ass end goals set at the beginning of the session in which the client does not even have all the say in. So here I recommend chunking it down into workable units.
We have a choice and (the illusion) of control over what we are aware of, but what we are unaware of controls us. That is why reality questions when applied to self, provide the most straightforward means of self-assessment. Whitmore says that problems must be addressed at the level beneath that at which they show themselves, if they are to be permanently eliminated. That is my „what is the question behind the question“ premise, which makes this reality section a pretty big deal. Not only consisting of physical reality and means to an end, but also personal capacity, limitations and strengths.
When listing the options, it will be necessary to check back to see if each of them would in fact move you toward the desired goal. Also I would include realistic as well as unrealistic ones, just to put it all out there.
Finally before the what and when are set, it is crucial to make one last check to see if they meet the goal. The purpose of this final phase is to convert a discussion into a decision. And only if the phases before were dealt with appropriately and the client has had an insight, this phase will come naturally. Most often initiated by the client. If not, if there was not insight or new perspective, these questions generate frustration and the client often has a feeling that the coach is just filling out his norm.
Without the appropriate context, this model does not make sense and looks like cold interrogation. And the context I am referring to is proper contracting, rapport, safe environment and the curiosity mood that a coach carries and that seeks to raise awareness and generate ownership with the client.
- What would you like to have by the end of this coaching session?
- Let`s imagine a year or so into the future. What would your ideal work situation be? Describe to me in some detail what your typical working day would be like.
- What are the elements of that scenario that you
- How important is each of these to you? (You could use a scale from 1 to 10
- So your goal at work would be what?
- By when would you want that to be the case?
- Deep down, what do you really want from xyz?
- If that seems a bit of a stretch from where you are now, give me a couple of stepping stones along the way
- From where you are now, what would be the first step that you could feel good about?
- How much of this situation do you feel is within your control? (Frequently it is a big issue for coachees to realize that ultimately their situation is their choice. They so often feel a victim and therefore experience themselves as powerless.)
- Aside from the day-to-day frustrations, what is it about xyz that gives you the most dissatisfaction?
- What is the concern that lies behind the dissatisfaction?
- What sort of thing could meet that concern?
- What else bothers you? An what else? Tell me more about that.
- What sort of people and what sort of activities at xyz do you dislike?
- For how much of your time doing xyz do you feel positive and how much negative? Let`s look at the positive.
- What sort of people and activities do you enjoy most at xyz?
- What is it about them that you like?
- What qualities do they represent? Where else do you find those qualities?
- If you had to state the purpose for your life, what would it be?
- If you had the opportunity to write your obituary right now, what would you like to be writing about your life? (a good one, but be careful who you use it with)
- What options do you have for changing things? (If the client answers “I could change my job.” Continue as follows, but bear in mind that changing forms and structures does not change anything. It is something else that needs a shift.)
- What would be the benefits of doing that? What would you lose?
- How might you ensure that the same problems do not occur at a different xyz?
- So abc and abc are two options. Let`s look at how might you introduce some of those qualities in your current
- How else? Where? And where else?
- What would have to change? What could you do to change that? Who could you ask to have other parts changed?
- If you were able to change all those things, how well would your needs be met?
- What are you going to do?
- When are you going to do it?
- Will this action meet your goal?
- What obstacles might you meet along the way?
- Who needs to know?
- What support do you need?
- How and when are you going to get that support?
- What other considerations do you have?
- Rate on a scale of 1 to 10 the degree of certainty you have that you will carry out the actions agreed.
It can be done as an embodied activity if you draw it on the floor, or if you have the space, different room, different questioning.
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