The GROW Model is deservedly one of the most established and successful coaching models. Created by Alexander Graham, Sir John Whitmore and colleagues in the 1980s, it was popularized in Sir John’s best-selling book, Coaching for Performance.
A Brief History of the GROW Model
In 1979 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 Graham Alexander set up the Alexander Corporation, initially working with John Whitmore. 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 Graham Alexander, John Whitmore and colleagues in the Alexander Corporation videoed themselves 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. It was Graham Alexander who came up with the acronym GROW derived from the four key stages of their model, Goal, Reality, Options, Will. He bounced it and a few other ideas off an internal communications person at McKinsey who said GROW would fly well. She liked it because it was simple and because it was actions and outcome focused. They had no idea of its significance at the time!
John Whitmore was the first to publish GROW in his book Coaching for Performance (1992) which rapidly become the coaching bible for managers and executive coaches alike, published globally in 30 countries and in 23 languages. Through the book’s success, GROW became known universally and is now acknowledged as the most popular coaching model globally.
What Makes the GROW Model Different?
Utilizing a deceptively simple framework, the GROW Model provides a powerful tool to highlight, elicit and maximize inner potential through a series of sequential coaching conversations. The GROW Model is globally renowned for its success in both problem solving and goal setting, helping to maximize and maintain personal achievement and productivity. Part of what makes it such a powerful leadership tool is its flexibility. Its efficacy transcends boundaries of culture, discipline and personality.
Most Popular Coaching Model
The GROW Model has proved successful all over the world to a diverse mix of people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. It forms the most common basis of coaching in many organizations and universities globally. The GROW Model is now one of the most popular principal pillars utilized within the international coaching community as a whole, due to the outstanding results it helps people to achieve personally and within global organizations.
How the GROW Model Works
The GROW Model is an acronym standing for (G)oals, (R)eality, (O)ptions and (W)ill, highlighting the four key steps in the implementation of the GROW Model. By working through these four stages, the GROW Model raises an individual’s awareness and understanding of:
- their own aspirations;
- their current situation and beliefs;
- the possibilities and resources open to them; and
- the actions they want to take to achieve their personal and professional goals.
By setting goals which are inspiring and challenging as well as specific, measurable and achievable in a realistic time frame, the GROW Model successfully promotes confidence and self-motivation, leading to increased productivity and personal satisfaction. The Will element of the fourth stage in the model is the barometer of success. It relates to volition, desire and intention.
Download The GROW Model Guide for more detail.
The implementation of the GROW Model, by using carefully structured questions, promotes a deeper awareness and responsibility and encourages proactive behaviour, as well as resulting in practical techniques to accomplish goals and overcome obstacles. The use of continuous and progressive coaching skills support provides the structure which ultimately helps to unlock an individual’s true potential by increasing confidence and motivation, leading to both short- and long-term benefits.
The GROW Model has been seen to yield higher productivity, improved communication, better interpersonal relationships and a better quality working environment.