The
GROW
Model

GROW: The practical coaching model driven by a powerful coaching philosophy

The GROW Model is a coaching framework used in conversations, meetings and everyday leadership to unlock potential and possibilities. GROW was created by our co-founder Sir John Whitmore and colleagues in the late 1980s. It has since become the world’s most popular coaching model for problem solving, goal setting and performance improvement.

We have spent four decades helping coaches, leaders and whole organizations to learn Sir John Whitmore’s transformational coaching approach that powers the GROW Model he originated. This work includes our in-person Coaching for Performance workshops for coaches, managers and senior leaders and our latest online GROW Training for Leaders.

To learn how to use GROW click here.


What is the GROW Model?

GROW is more than a coaching model loved by the coaching community. It is also a top leadership tool that works across all disciplines and cultures. With its four deceptively simple steps, GROW has proved successful all over the world. It forms the backbone of coaching in many organizations and universities globally, due to the outstanding results. It helps people to achieve success personally or as part of a team.

Learn GROW Model coaching

How does the GROW Model work?

As the GROW Model image above shows, the name is an acronym for the four key steps in GROW coaching: G-oals, R-eality, O-ptions and W-ill. With a few powerful coaching questions, a leader or coach can quickly raise awareness and responsibility in each area:

G: goals and aspirations

R: current situation, internal and external obstacles

O: possibilities, strengths and resources

W: actions and accountability

The key is to set a Goal which is inspiring and challenging, not just SMART (specific, measurable and achievable in a realistic time frame). Then move flexibly through the other stages, including revisiting the goal if necessary. The final Will element is the barometer of success. It converts the initial desire and intention into successful action.

The GROW approach promotes confidence and self-motivation, leading to increased productivity and personal satisfaction.

“Any dictator can use GROW. It should not be used in isolation but in conjunction with fundamental coaching skills that make it transformational.”
Sir John Whitmore, Co-Creator of the GROW Model and Co-Founder of Performance Consultants

How can I develop effective GROW coaching skills?

We encourage everyone to try out using the questions in the GROW Model infographic above, and to check out our straightforward Guide to GROW. You can gain a clearer understanding of the theory from Sir John Whitmore’s book Coaching for Performance.

We offer both a highly popular coaching digital fundamentals course (Online GROW Training for Leaders) and if you want to learn the application of GROW directly from world-class trainers our gold-standard Coaching for Performance programme is highly recommended for leaders and coaches. Find out more:


Self-coaching GROW exercise

The GROW coaching model is so effective that you can even use it to coach yourself. Give the following activity a try. First, think about something you would really like to achieve or perhaps resolve at work. Then write down your answers to each of these questions:

  1. What would you like to work on?
  2. What would you like to have after answering this set of questions (eg, a first step/strategy/solution)?
  3. What is your goal related to this issue?
  4. When are you going to achieve it?
  5. What are the benefits for you in achieving this goal?
  6. Who else will benefit and in what way?
  7. What will it be like if you achieve your goal?
  8. What will you see/hear/feel?
  1. What action have you taken so far?
  2. What is moving you toward your goal?
  3. What is getting in the way?

OPTIONS

  1. What different kind of options do you have to achieve your goal?
  2. What else could you do?
  3. What are the principal advantages and disadvantages of each option?

WILL

  1. Which options will you choose to act on?
  2. When are you going to start each action?
  3. How committed are you, on a scale of 1–10, to taking each of these actions?
  4. If it is not a 10, what would make it a 10?
  5. What will you commit to doing? (Note: It is also an option to do nothing and review at a later date.)

Example GROW questions from Coaching for Performance, 5th Edition
(c) 2017 The Estate of Sir John Whitmore and Performance Consultants International


“The strongest case for following the GROW sequence with powerful coaching questions is that it is simple, flexible, and it works.”
Sir John Whitmore, Co-Creator of the GROW Model and Co-Founder of Performance Consultants

The impact of GROW coaching

Leaders and coaches value the simplicity and flexibility of the GROW Model for coaching in the workplace. They see the results in their daily interactions with individuals.

Organizations incorporate GROW into their management processes and leadership models to engage people, inspire great performance and maximize productivity. For this reason, some of the world’s most successful companies including Google teach their managers to use GROW.

GROW coaching skills unlock potential and increase performance by increasing self-confidence and motivation. Asking effective questions in a carefully structured way promotes deeper awareness and greater responsibility which leads to practical steps to accomplish goals and overcome obstacles.

The GROW Model has been seen to yield higher productivity, improved communication, better interpersonal relationships and a better quality working environment.


Who created the GROW Model?

Sir John Whitmore first published the GROW Model in 1992 in his book Coaching for Performance. The book rapidly became the coaching bible for managers and executive coaches alike, selling over a million copies in 23 languages. Through the book’s success, and our international workshops, GROW became known universally and is now acknowledged as the most popular coaching model globally.

To understand the origins of the GROW Model, we begin in 1979 when John Whitmore and Graham Alexander brought The Inner Game to Europe, with the blessing of Inner Game creator Tim Gallwey. They soon realized the value of The Inner Game for leaders and managers of organizations. As pioneers of coaching in the workplace, they spent much of the 1980s developing the methodology, concepts and techniques for performance improvement in organizations. Wanting to make a real difference to people, they showed how it was possible to grow not just performance but also learning and enjoyment. Individuals become more aware, more responsible and gained a powerful sense of purpose in their work.

In 1986 the management consulting firm McKinsey became their client. Many of the programmes they ran for McKinsey included experiential coaching work on tennis courts. The coaching was so successful at improving performance and unlocking potential that McKinsey asked them to come up with an underpinning framework of coaching – a model on which to hang what was happening on the courts and elsewhere in the programmes.

So they videoed themselves and their colleagues coaching, they invited neurolinguistic programming (NLP) experts to look at what they did, they debriefed to try to discover what was happening and whether there was a model that played out in their unconscious competence. And yes, there was – whether on the tennis court or in a business setting.

Initially they put it into the 7S Coaching Model because McKinsey had their existing 7S Framework but it was tortuous. And really it looked like 1, 2, 3, 4 or sometimes 1, 3, 4 or just 1, 2, 3 etc. The acronym GROW came out of the four key stages they identified: Goal, Reality, Options, Will. They bounced it and a few other ideas off an internal communications person at McKinsey who said GROW would fly well, and liked it because it was simple and because it was actions and outcome focused. They had no idea of its significance at the time!


GROW Model training created by Sir John Whitmore

Our Founder Sir John Whitmore was careful to warn that, like any other model, the GROW coaching model is not the truth, nor is GROW by itself coaching. It is necessary first to develop a coaching mindset and authentic coaching behaviours in order to discover how powerful GROW can be. Focusing on transformational rather than transactional coaching, our experiential coach training programmes show managers and leaders how really to GROW people, performance and purpose.


FAQs on the GROW Model

When is the GROW model used?

GROW is more than a coaching model loved by the coaching community. It is also a top leadership tool that works across all disciplines and cultures. With its four deceptively simple steps, GROW has proved successful all over the world. It forms the backbone of coaching in many organizations and universities globally, due to the outstanding results. It helps people to achieve success personally or as part of a team.

Does the GROW Model work?

Our founder and co-creator of the GROW model used to say “Any dictator can use the GROW model” because GROW by itself is not coaching. It is necessary to also develop a coaching mindset and authentic coaching behaviours in order to discover how powerful GROW can be. The most important of these is taking a “collaborative” approach rather than a “command and control” approach. Focusing on transformational rather than transactional coaching, our experiential coach training programmes show managers and leaders how really to GROW people, performance and purpose.
Find out more about why a collaborative approach creates the highest performance by reading about The Performance Curve.

How do leaders use the GROW model with teams?

Leaders can use the GROW model in conversations with individual team members, whole teams and colleagues. Pick the questions that work for a particular situation out of this infographic and have a go. Remember to bring a partnering approach and you coach people to lean into their own potential.

How do organizations use the GROW model?

Organizations incorporate GROW into their management processes and leadership models to engage people, inspire great performance and maximize productivity. For this reason, some of the world’s most successful companies including Google teach their managers to use GROW.

Is the GROW Model copyrighted?

Yes, to use the GROW Model you require the permission of one of the originators of the model. Please write to The Estate of Sir John Whitmore and Performance Consultants International. You can send an email or use our contact form.

If you wish to reproduce sections of text, whole pages, figures and/or tables from any of the five editions of the book Coaching for Performance, you should submit a separate permission request to Permissions at the publisher Nicholas Brealey Publishing and include an exact description of the content you wish to include. There may be a royalty fee to pay.

Why choose Performance Consultants?

Performance Consultants is the leading global provider for transformational coaching and leadership development.

The Coaching for Performance training programme holds triple accreditation in recognition of its world-class design and delivery. It is accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and has been recognized by the Association of Coaching (AC), and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC).

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