The Pros and Cons of the GROW Coaching Model
It is uncertain who originally developed the GROW model but it is thought by some that it was developed by Graham Alexander but made popular by Sir John Whitmore.
For those new to coaching the GROW model does provide a very useful framework. By helping the coachee really identify what they want from the conversation it does help prevent it from becoming an aimless chat. If the goal is ‘SMARTend’ up you have a Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant goal with a Time Limit on it so both coach and coachee know exactly the direction the session should be going in.
This framework in also useful in a group coaching or even a business meeting context where the coach or facilitator at the outset can establish an overall common goal and for the session, then work through ‘where are now?’, options for the way forward and specific action.
But is this model always appropriate especially when working on a one to one basis helping your coachee make significant and sustainable change? Whilst of course it is good to have a sense of what the coachee wants from the conversation a good coach will often uncover other issues during the course of a coaching session and sticking rigidly to the initial goal may prevent the real issues to be tackled from surfacing.
Whilst the GROW model is intended to be flexible I have seen coaches focusing more on their ability to follow the model than just listen and follow the client. The Coactive coaching approach (see book Co-active Coaching by Laura Whitworth, Karen Kimsey-House, Henry Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl) is very different and it talks about ‘dancing in the moment’ with the client, listening carefully and using your intuition to just being with the client, following their energy and going where they want to go in the conversation.
The final stage of GROW is Way Forward in other words is the stage where the client identifies action to be taken. Whilst coaching is about taking a client forward not every session may result in specific action to be taken. If as coaches we are so intent on finding the action and focusing on the ‘doing’ we can overlook the importance of just raising a client’s awareness about who they are, what they are noticing, what they are feeling in other words ‘the being’.
I know of coaches who are so intent on getting their client to action that they fail to allow them to fully explore what is important to them and what their underlying issues are resulting in actions that their clients are not really committed to and rarely result in meaningful change. If the client spends sufficient time on ‘the being’ rather than ‘the doing’ then action will automatically fall out of the conversation and will be led by the client. And the way forward may simply be a commitment to go away and reflect further on some of the questions raised.
The advantage of the GROW coaching model in that it is a structure to guide the coach is also its downside…as long as a coach is using a structure to guide the conversation and keep on track they will be failing to allow the client to guide the conversation.
So if you are a coach ask yourself how are you using the GROW model? Does it guide you or constrain you? Do you spend more time thinking about where you are in the model or are you focused 100% on listening and following your client? And who has initiated the action… you or the client?