‘Performance, learning and enjoyment are inextricably intertwined’ Sir John Whitmore.

The GROW model of coaching has been designed by Sir John Whitmore and is central to his best-selling book ‘Coaching for Performance’. This coaching model can be used to structure coaching conversations.

It is particularly useful when new to coaching as it provides a framework within which to hold coaching conversations that enables you and your coachee to:

  • Ensure the time is being spent on the coachee’s goals
  • Explore the goals together
  • Raise the coachee’s awareness and self-awareness
  • Agree solutions, actions and activities
  • Commit to progressing the coachee’s development

As with all models, when applied in practice you may find that each discreet stage tends to merge. That’s fine, you just need to take a moment to check that you have covered each stage as you go along.

G – Goal setting for the session as well as for the short and long term

R – Reality checking to explore the current situation

O – Options and alternative strategies, or course of action

W – What will you do, when and by whom, and the will to do it

Goal setting:

The first stage is to agree and understand the goal that the coachee wants to cover in the session. This is important!

Some questions to help with this are:

  • What would you like to get out of this session?
  • We have half an hour left. Where would you like to have got to by then?
  • What would be the most useful/helpful thing for you to take away from this session/time?

A goal should be:


Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time phased

Positively stated, Understood, Relevant and Ethical

Challenging, Legal, Environmentally sound, Appropriate and Recorded

Agreeing coaching goals:

An eight-step approach based on Well Formed Outcomes: Adapted from Mentoring – A Henley Review of Best Practice by Jane Cranwell-Ward, Patricia Bossons and Sue Gover.

  1. State what you want in the positive. What do you want?
  2. Find out what evidence they need to demonstrate success. How will you know when you have what you want? How will you look, sound and feel? What will be the same – different? This is a must for recognising success
  3. Can you start and maintain the process to get what you want? What stops you from having it right now? What do you need? What is your first step?
  4. You presently do things which work, so what part of your present behaviour can you use to get what you want?
  5. In what context do you want this? Everywhere or somewhere specific? When do you want it – all of the time? When, where and with whom do you not want it?
  6. What are the costs of what you want? Is it worth the cost to you? What will you gain? What will you lose?
  7. Is it worth the time it is going to take?
  8. Is it what you want in keeping with your own purpose, your sense of self and identity?

Reality checking:

Once the goal is set you will need to explore the facts and feelings around the issue/problem/topic. This exploration is to raise the awareness and self-awareness of the individual. Awareness is defined as perceiving things as they really are and self-awareness is recognising those internal factors that distort one’s own perception of reality.

To do this we often we need to tap into the emotions:

  • How did you/do you feel about….?
  • What is the predominant feeling when….?
  • What do you think you are afraid of?
  •  Can you give me a rating on a scale of 1 – 10 for your level of confidence in your ability to do….?

Reality questions that nearly always contributes value are:

  • ‘What action have you taken on this so far?’

Followed by:

  • ‘What were the effects of that action?’
  • Or, if the answer is nothing! ‘What are the factors that prevented you from taking action?’


Once your coachee is aware of the reality around the situation they need to think about actions, solutions and ideas that will help resolve or move the situation forward.

Having options is important as choice enables us to feel in control and empowered. It is even more powerful if those choices are our own and the choices we make are also our own. When asked to think about options for taking an issue forward we can be faced with negativity. This negativity comes from our own limiting beliefs.

As a mentor we need to get people to see beyond these beliefs. Some very common negative responses are:

  • I don’t know
  • It can’t be done
  • It can’t be done like that
  • They would never agree to that
  • It’s bound to cost too much/take too much time

To unblock negativity, the following ‘what if…’ questions may work:

  • What if you knew the answer? What would it be?
  • What if the obstacle didn’t exist? What would you do then?
  • What if you did have enough money/time?

The key is to identify the limiting belief; the solutions and choices are then much easier to find.

What will you do:

Once the choices for moving forward have been agreed, it is important that the coachee has fully bought into the action if they are to feel confident in completing it.

This stage needs to cover the what, when, who (support/involved) and the will to do it. If this is not explored, you may think your coachee has left the session with agreed actions and be surprised to find that when you next meet that nothing has happened!

Some coaching questions that may help are:

  • 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?
  • On a scale of 1-10 how confident are you that will carry out the actions agreed?
  • What prevents it from being a 10?
  • What would make it a 10 for you?

Discover more questions to ask in our list of 40+ questions to ask your mentee.

Permission to use the GROW model granted by The Estate of Sir John Whitmore and Performance Consultants International.

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