The Coaching Manager : Using the G.R.O.W model

By Allen Macintosh

A Simple coaching model to get you started in using coaching skills to support the development of yourself and your people is the G RO.W model (John Whitmore), where:
G – stands for GOAL
R – stands for REALITY
O – stands for OPTIONS
W – stands for WRAP UP and/or WILL. (l will expand on this a bit later!)

Before we go through the respective parts of the model – A HEALTH WARNING.
Using this coaching model is fine provided the manager or coach does not use the framework as just a means of asking a few questions!

For example, I have heard of managers asking one or two questions per section:

  • What is your goal? What do you want to achieve?
  • Where are you now? What is the gap?
  • What options do you have to fill the gap?
  • When are you going to do the things you need to do?

FINISH. Quick coaching session! But no real depth and exploration as to what is really happening with the coachee! The secret of using GROW is to explore and to support the coachee explore specifically what they really want to achieve; to ensure they fully understand where they are at present and to check the reality of goals and aims. Time must be taken to go through all the options available, to test the validity of each option and to test which option is the very best for the coachee at that point in time. And finally, rather than just WRAP UP as one model of GROW suggests, the WILL of the coachee to carry out the actions needed must be tested and confirmed. No point having identified what the specific goal is, and then explored all the options to find a way forward, and then having no motivation to do the actions!!

Using GROW should take time! Managers must be prepared to put time in to what I call “dedicated time coaching” Rushing through the model will not ensure the best results and could result in total demotivation.

So, how can we make the GROW model really work for the manager and the coachee?

  1. Put time in — at least an hour. It could be that it could take less depending on the topic or issue being discussed. It can also take more.
  2. G — GOAL. Take time to fully explore exactly what they are trying to achieve. Check the realism of their goal. If what they are trying to achieve is beyond their capabilities, or above budgets, then help them to think again about a more realistic target. You may have to work hard here to continue to motivate the individual and perhaps longer term their dreams and aims can become a reality! Make sure their objectives are SMART. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and Timebound.
  3. R – REALITY. Check exactly where the coachee is at present in relation to their goals or objectives. Be prepared to challenge and give feedback where necessary here. I have worked with some people whose grasp of reality in relation to where they are exactly with an objective is suspect! Some people actually need to be told that they are maybe not as far ahead as they think they are. Having said that, some people are actually further ahead than they think they are. The trick here is not to tell them outright where specifically they are but to enable them to realise that for themselves!
  4. O – OPTIONS. Don’t settle for the first option that comes into the coachee’s head. Explore, explore, explore. Support them to come up with a few options and then test each option by taking time to investigate the pros and cons of each. Then get the coachee to make a decision THEIR decision — as to which is best for them. I add this in capitals because this is an area where managers can manipulate their people into what the manager thinks is the best way forward and they can “lead” the person into thinking that this option is best for them. Managers have to take risks here and let the person try the option out that they believe is the best way forward. Otherwise, if you manipulate the person into doing it your way, then is there the motivation to carry out that option? This is the area where I have seen potentially good coaching managers fall down. They explore and identify the goals well, they support their people to investigate the options, and then they “manipulate” in order to get the person to carry out the option the manager is most comfortable with. Don’t do it take a risk. I have been coached in this way on occasion and, believe me, it is not the most motivational way forward
  5. W- WRAP UP and/or WILL. Some books say WRAP UP where you now summarize all. You would re-enforce the goal or objective, the steps necessary to achieve that goal and the timescales needed to achieve each step. I prefer WILL as I believe that you can WRAP-UP and go, but, just maybe, the coachee has not fully bought in to what they are going to do. You must check this and here you must have the awareness to identify if the motivation is really what it should be. Be aware of body language, of voice tone. Is it what it should be? Ask them to tell you on a scale of 1 — 10, how motivated they are to go and carry out the necessary steps that you have agreed. 1- not motivated at all, to 10 — really buzzing, can’t wait to get started. Feel for where they are. Be prepared to challenge if your feelings are such that you detect a lack of motivation. 

You can now go out and try to use GROW. Remember to contract with your coachee. Also keep reading and enlisting the support of your mentor or coach. The more information, advice and practice you get the better.

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