How Can the GROW Model Promote Employee Growth?

One of the key responsibilities of a leader is to provide mentorship and coaching to their team to enable better decision-making, skill development and employee growth. But while some leaders receive formal training in coaching, others must develop this skill on their own.

Taking the time to learn and practise a powerful framework like the GROW Model is a great way to become a successful coach and help employees to progress in their careers. This guide will walk you through how to use the GROW model to promote employee growth in any organisation.

Key facts:

  • The GROW model is the most used workplace coaching model worldwide. It’s an acronym with each letter representing a step in the coaching process: Goals, Reality, Options and Will.

  • The GROW model is especially effective because it asks the coachee to set short- and long-term goals and describe their current situation before moving on to brainstorming solutions and making a plan.

  • Coaches appreciate the flexibility of the GROW model, because they can shape each session based on the specific needs of the coachee and their situation.

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GROW Model: Definition

The GROW model – developed in the 1980s by business coach Sir John Whitmore, Graham Alexander and Alan Fin – is the most widely-used workplace coaching model for employee growth. It includes four steps of the coaching process, with the acronym standing for Goals, Reality, Options and Will.

The framework enables coaches and employees to have meaningful development conversations and set achievable goals by asking a variety of thoughtful GROW model questions.

Using the GROW Model for Coaching

Business coaching brings about a number of benefits, the most common being increased self-confidence (80%), better relationships (73%), improved communication skills (72%) interpersonal skills (71%), and upgraded work performance (70%).

Many coaching models exist, but the GROW model is especially popular to improve goal setting, problem solving and performance. Read on for more detail on each step, and be sure to read our other post with example questions to guide your conversation.

GROW Model Questions: 60 Questions To Enable Employee Growth

GoalIdentify the employee’s goal.
RealityEstablishing present conditions.
OptionsDetermining what can be done.
WillHow an employee can move forward.

H3: Decide Your Goal

The first step in the GROW model asks employees to set short- and long-term goals.

It’s important to build rapport from the start: The coach should aim to understand the employee, build a connection with them and ensure the employee is at ease before determining goals together.

Goals should then be set for each GROW session (short-term) and for the larger obstacle the employee wants to work on (long-term). The goals should be regularly referred to in order to ensure steady progress, encourage ambition and clarify ideas. By clearly establishing what the employee is striving to accomplish, you can direct your attention to solutions rather than obstacles.

Short-term session goals are crucial to avoid the chat veering off-topic, lasting longer than expected or not resulting in concrete outcomes. The long-term goal will be highly dependent on the employee, but could focus on their performance, skills, judgement, or a problem they wish to tackle.

For both short- and long-term objectives, help the employee set SMART goals: This means each goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Ensuring objectives check these boxes will ensure clarity and increase the probability of success.

Reality Check

The second step asks the employee to have a “reality check” – to describe their current reality, so they can work with the coach to uncover what needs to be done to achieve the goal(s) set in the previous step.

This is a fundamental step. People often try to fix an issue or accomplish a goal without taking the time to adequately examine their starting point, and they may be lacking some of the necessary information. This process may uncover potential solutions.

Questions using the four W’s can be helpful to the employee in this step:

  • What is occurring right now? (What’s the problem?)

  • Where is it happening?

  • When is it happening?

  • Who is involved in the issue?

"Why” questions tend to lead more to opinions than facts, so you can leave those out for now.

Check your Options

Once you and your teammate have examined the present situation, the next step is to explore options for potential paths to reach the goal.

The coach should then support the employee as they brainstorm options, then weigh each one and choose the most appropriate solution(s). It’s helpful to use the six Ws here to ensure all options are considered:

  • Who

  • What

  • When

  • Where

  • Why

  • How

The coach can share their own ideas during this step, but should give the employee the opportunity to voice their opinion first. Most of the talking should be done by the coachee, not the coach. The aim should be to serve as a guide to the employee, without making the actual decisions for them.

Will Is the Way Forward

By this point, the employee will have set clear goals, examined their current situation and analysed all potential options. They should now have a better understanding of how they might reach those goals.

In order to achieve those results, however, they will need to create an action plan: Specific activities they pledge to undertake in order to advance toward their goals. This step is sometimes also called WrapUp or WayForward.

Discuss with the coachee the exact steps they need to take, how they’ll measure success, which stakeholders need to be involved and any support they might need to reach the finish line. Completing this step can help build the employee’s determination and increase their enthusiasm to follow through on their coaching goals.

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The Flexibility of the GROW Model Through an Example

The flexibility of the GROW model is one of its greatest strengths. As the coach and employee work their way through the four steps, the framework can be formed to the specifics of the situation, e.g. the employee’s past experience, the goals they set, the speed at which they adapt to changes, etc.

Let’s walk through an example of the flexibility of the GROW model in the workplace.

GROW Model Coaching Example

Amanda is looking to be promoted to a Manager position and has been excelling in her current role for 8 months. Her coach asks her the following questions about her goals to ensure they understand her motivations:

  • What has motivated you to pursue the position of manager?

  • What attributes/skills/competencies do you need to develop in order to secure this role?

  • Are you able to dedicate the necessary time and resources to achieve your goal?

Amanda and her coach then progress to step two, analysing her current reality. Amanda explains that although she has only held her current role for under a year, she had more prior experience than her colleagues. Her performance feedback has also indicated that she had exceptional knowledge and expertise.

Amanda realises that her short tenure in her current role could be used against her. She also knows she hasn’t spent much time mentoring her peers, which would be essential in a managerial role.

Once Amanda understands her current situation, the coach helps her brainstorm options to close the gaps she's identified. This step is especially flexible, as the coach can use what they've uncovered in the first two steps to shape their questions going forward. For example:

  • What skills can you work on to close these gaps?

  • Which areas of expertise are needed as a Manager that you have less experience in?

  • Are there any additional resources or types of support you'll need to achieve this promotion?

After this conversation, the coach and Amanda identify that she needs the opportunity to mentor her peers and increase her leadership skills. Amanda and the coach use the SMART goal framework to create her plan of action (because “will is the way forward”).

Using the GROW Model to Reach HR Goals

The GROW model can be adapted to suit the needs of any organisation, individual employee or team. With the right support, this framework can enhance leadership coaching skills, enable employee growth and help your team to reach their objectives.

To implement automated and scheduled performance cycles and start using your favourite coaching models, check out Personio’s performance management software.

Frequently Asked Questions About the GROW Model

What Is the GROW Model?

The GROW model is the most commonly utilised workplace coaching model, with the acronym standing for Goals, Reality, Options and Will. Coaches and employees can use this framework to engage in meaningful development talks and set attainable objectives.

How Can You Apply the GROW Model?

To apply the GROW model, coaches should guide their coachee through the four steps of the framework:

  • Goals

  • Reality

  • Options

  • Will

Is the GROW Model Flexible?

The GROW model is a very flexible coaching framework. It works across cultures, disciplines, industries and roles to guide development conversations and improve employee performance.

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