Grow Coaching Model Explained

Apr 4, 2018

Jump to section

Coaching focuses on future possibilities, not past mistakes.

Sir John Whitmore

Many are taught to look at GROW as a model. I think it’s more useful to view it as a process framework in coaching as well as in many other interactions where one desires to shift the mind map, with themselves or others.

GROW is perhaps the most complete framework. Its components of Goal, Reality, Options and Will as framed by the late Sir John Whitmore, along with the emphasis on building awareness and responsibility comprise coaching competencies of all credentialing bodies.


Goal as defined by Whitmore has four levels:

  • Dream at the highest level as a powerful future vision
  • End Goal as a more specific motivating objective
  • Performance goals to evidence the end goal
  • Process to lead to achieve the performance goals

Goals, in order to be processed, need to be Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time Phased, as well as Positive, Sustainable and Ethical.

When a coach works with a client, some simple questions that would help client establish goals with complete understanding and motivation, as well awareness and responsibility and learning and enjoyment may be:

  • What is your goal in this session?
  • What larger vision does it arise from?
  • How would you evidence that you have achieved?
  • How would this motivate you?
  • What may be your challenges to address?
  • What learning do you wish to achieve in this session?
  • How would you feel when you have achieved?

Without clarity and conviction about the session, goal coaching would be a non- starter.


A client requires a coach to help resolve a problem. Whitmore says. ‘when the reality is clear, it brings the goals into sharper focus’. The barriers that stand in the way from reality to goals start emerging.

Visualization is a useful exercise to clarify goal, reality and the path in between. A few questions that help to support the visualization are:

  • From where you are now how does the path to your desired outcome look like?
  • As you view this path what emotions arise in you?
  • Where do you experience these emotions within your body?
  • What do they mean to you?
  • Are there hurdles you see in your path to the goal?
  • What would it look like when you reach the goal?

These questions create mind and body awareness. As Whitmore says, “Problems need to be addressed at the level beneath which they show themselves, if they are to be permanently eliminated.” The coach can also help the client visualize current reality and become aware of what lies underneath.

The client may go into descriptive content. Coach may need to steer non-judgmentally client to go deeper not broader. What client has done so far about this reality and effects thereof would also be relevant to reveal why it has become important to address the issue now.

What he means is that the barriers are below the surface, often invisible.

From the sporting origin of coaching, a good analogy would be view it as a game of football. The desired outcome is the goal. How does the player see the path from where he is to scoring that precious goal? He knows he needs to plan the ball within the goal post. In another games and situations this may be something else? The blocks may not be players of the opposing team but other factors.


Option as part the GROW framework is not about fixing the problem and coming up with right solution but to generate multiple pathways to the desired outcome in line with multiple barriers client may come up with.

This part of coaching is purely a right brain, here and now  exploration into the mind of the client for the client to find ways to reframe what is perceived as reality to suit the outcome. It is rare that reality is the block; almost always perception of the reality is. Option is reframing.

Many question in this options stage are ‘what if’ questions that challenge the client perceptions in order to reframe, and sometimes to shift the client from helplessness.

Within this process some areas that are useful to address are:

  • Aspirational values that underlie desired outcome
  • ‘I ought to be’ beliefs that may limit the client
  • Emotions that arise while considering options of pathways
  • Client, situation and the system

Options stage offers the greatest opportunity for the coach to dance with the client as almost an invisible partner who does not lead. Questions need to be brief, curious, spontaneous, evocative, creative and non-judgmental, addressing the inner workings of client mind.

Towards the end of this stage, client can be helped to refine these options to one, at least for the current session, and link it back to the desired outcome. Visualization can help at this stage as well. Awareness on what needs to be acted upon is the end game here.


‘What will you do now’ Whitmore asks; also when, with whom, and how.

The client needs to address at some level:

  • Set if actions
  • Timelines
  • Support necessary
  • Own accountability
  • Any additional hurdles still seen to be overcome
  • Where else can these actions lead?
  • Visualizing for fulfillment
  • Acknowledging oneself
  • Closure of session

The more one practises this process more one grows in coaching mastery. Do read Whitmore’s ‘Coaching for Performance’ for more on this topic.

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

Read Next