The GROW coaching model helps you to become a better coach. The GROW model is probably one of the best known coaching models in the world.
I will first explain the GROW Coaching Model (The order of the coaching questions) and next offer a long list of coaching questions you can use for each of the four steps of the GROW coaching model.
You can read this extensive guide about the GROW model chronologically or jump to the chapter of your choice.
There are dozens of performance coaching methods out there, some better than others.
The good ones will help you as a coach to facilitate learning rather than to direct it. The GROW coaching model – originally conceived by Graham Alexander and further perfected by Sir John Whitmore – is probably on of the best-known and appreciated coaching models in the world.
Unlike other coaching models, the GROW model is much more than a toolbox linked to an acronym. It’s an approach, a philosophy which helps you create the right context to help individuals transform their potential into peak performance.
And I believe that’s exactly the reason for its success.
What is performance coaching
You can achieve limited success by diligently following the GROW coaching model. But without subscribing to the underlying coaching philosophy however, you will fall short of what is truly possible.
The essence of good coaching is all about you, as a coach, helping your coachee to increase awareness and take responsibility.
Of course, the process is important since it brings structure to the conversation, but it should not be the cornerstone of your coaching. Creating awareness and responsibility are. Frame your coaching in the context of awareness and responsibility and it will improve drastically.
The importance of coaching questions
Asking coaching questions – rather than telling – is the best way to mentally engage your coachee. And as you are looking for the highest possible engagement from your coachee, asking coaching questions therefore becomes your most important means of communication.
‘But what questions do I ask?’ you might wonder.
Well, your coaching questions need to evoke awareness and responsibility with your coachee. Random questioning will not work.
The GROW model helps you pick the right questions to improve your performance coaching skills.
Effective questioning can be broken down into two parts:
- Asking the right coaching questions
- Asking coaching questions in the right order.
The GROW framework will help you to do both.
The GROW model offers the coach a simple, yet powerful, framework to ask coaching questions. The model helps you to structure your interaction with your coachee. Whitmore’s coaching model has 4 steps:
- G for Goal setting: define the short- and long-term goals
- R for Reality: explore the current situation
- O for Options: identify and evaluate different action strategies
- W for Will: what will you do by when?
The conversation can start at any one of the four stages of the GROW model. A coachee might begin by telling you about something s/he wants to achieve (Goal), a current problem (Reality), a new idea for improving things (Options) or by outlining an action plan (Will).
By itself, the particular order of questions will not help you to become a great coach. Each question should aim to increase your coachee’s awareness and responsibility. It’s the combination of context and sequence, along with lots of practice, that will make you a better coach.
Step 1 of the GROW model: G for Goal setting
The most important part of the first coaching phase is to define and agree upon one or more goals that the coachee wishes to achieve. Ideally, you should establish a clear goal for the coaching session itself and a long-term performance goal. Make sure that you and your coachee know what the objective of your conversation is, even when you are coaching informally. It’s important to give value and direction to any discussion.
Individual goal setting is not only a crucial stage for performance coaching but for strategy execution in general. Goal setting is one of the most researched elements in organisational science. I believe every good coach needs a solid understanding of the topic that goes beyond knowing what SMART stands for.
Example coaching questions for the GROW Goal Setting phase can be found in the second section.
Step 2 of the GROW model: R for for Reality
The most important criterion for examining the current situation is objectivity. Most people think they are objective but in reality they are not. Nobody is. Absolute objectivity doesn’t exist. We can only have partial objectivity.
There are many things that can and will cloud your, and your coachee’s objectivity including opinions, expectations, fear and prejudices. But the more we aim to be objective, the more we will be.
So it’s your challenge to come as close as possible to reality, by-passing as many distortions as possible. As a coach, you should help your coachee to remove as many false assumptions as possible.
Explore the real nature of the problem by asking your coachee to describe their perceived current reality. This is an important step. Too often, people try to solve a problem without fully considering their starting point – and often they are missing some of the information they need to solve the problem effectively. All too often, as your coachee tells you about his current Reality, the solution starts to emerge.
Example coaching questions for the GROW Reality phase can be found in the second section.
Step 3 of the GROW model: O for Options
Once you and your coachee have explored the current reality, it’s time to explore what is possible – meaning all the potential options, behavior or decisions that could lead to the right solution.
Help your coachee to generate a long list. Your objective as a coach during the Options stage should not be to find the right answer, but to help your coachee identify as many different ideas and solutions as possible. You don’t want any obstacles like preferences, feasibility or need for completeness blocking the brainstorming process. At this point in the process, it’s the creative part that provides the real value.
So, as strange as it may seem, focus on quantity rather than quality and feasibility. It’s from this long inventory of creative possibilities that actions will be chosen during the next stage.
Example coaching questions for the GROW Options phase can be found in the second section.
Step 4 of the GROW model: W for Will
What will you do by when?
The purpose of this final phase is to transform a discussion into a decision, using the outcomes of the three previous coaching steps. Again, you will be guiding your coachee through a series of questions.
By examining the current Reality and exploring the Options, your coachee will now have a good idea of how s/he can achieve their personal goals. That’s great, but without ownership to kick-start and drive future actions, it has no value. So you need to help your coachee to take responsibility and commit to action. As you want to maximize chances for success, you need to examine any potential obstacles, discuss ways of overcoming them, agree on the resources needed and the nature of further support.
So, the fourth phase demands that the coachee takes several decisions. Remember: the coachee takes the decision, even if that decision is to take no action at all. The coachee always maintains choice and ownership.
Example coaching questions for the GROW Will phase can be found in the second section.
BonusDownload a free checklist Get started with 50+ coaching questions and add your own (PPT)!
“Performance Coaching = ask the right questions , in the right order (using the GROW coaching model) and…listen to the responses”
Asking the right performance coaching questions is one of the most important building blocks of the GROW coaching model.
Everyone coach who want to build his/her coaching skills should be sharpening his/her questioning skills.
In other words: how to ask the right coaching questions at the right time…
I provide 56 coaching questions to help you become a better coach.
GROW Coaching Model Questions: Goal Setting
Here are 15 coaching questions you can use during the Goal Setting phase – the first step of the GROW coaching model
- What is the aim of this discussion?
- What would need to happen for you to walk away feeling that this time was well spent?
- If I could grant you a wish for this session, what would it be?
- What would you like to happen that is not happening now, or what would you like not to happen that is happening now?
- What outcome would you like from this session/discussion/interaction?
- Can we do that in the time we have available?
- What do you want to achieve long term?
- What does success look like?
- How much personal control or influence do you have over your goal?
- What would be a milestone on the way?
- When do you want to achieve it by?
- Is that realistic?
- Is that positive, challenging, attainable?
- Will that be of real value to you?
- How will you measure it?
GROW Coaching Model Questions: Reality
Here are some coaching questions you can use during the second GROW coaching model step – Reality.
- What is happening now? (what, where, when, who, how much, how often). Be precise if possible.
- How do you know that this is accurate?
- How have you verified, or would you verify, that that is so?
- What other factors are relevant?
- Who is involved (directly and indirectly)?
- What is their perception?
- When things are going badly on this issue, what happens to you?
- What happens to the others directly involved?
- What is the effect on others?
- What have you done about this so far?
- What results did that produce?
- What is missing in the situation?
- What do you have that you’re not using?
- What is holding you back?
- What is really going on (intuition)?
GROW Coaching Model Questions: Options
Here are some example GROW coaching questions for the Option phase to inspire you:
- What could you do to change the situation?
- Tell me what possibilities for action you see. Do not worry about whether they are realistic at this stage.
- What approach/actions have you seen used, or used yourself, in similar circumstances?
- What else could you do?
- What if…? (time, power, money, etc.)
- Who might be able to help?
- Would you like another suggestion from me?
- Which options do you like the most?
- What are the benefits and costs of each?
- Which options are of interest to you?
- Would you like to choose an option to act on?
GROW Coaching Model Questions: Will
The last step of the GROW coaching model is Will. Here are some example coaching questions to inspire you:
- What option or options do you choose?
- To what extent does this meet all your objectives?
- What are your criteria and measurements for success?
- When precisely are you going to start and finish each action step?
- What could arise to hinder you in taking these steps?
- What personal resistance do you have, if any, to taking these steps?
- What will you do to eliminate these external and internal factors?
- Who needs to know what your plans are?
- What support do you need and from whom?
- What will you do to obtain that support and when?
- What could I do to support you?
- What commitment on a 1-to-10 scale do you have to taking these agreed actions?
- What prevents this from being a 10?
- What could you do or alter to raise this commitment closer to 10?
- Is there anything else you want to talk about now or are we finished?
I hope the Grow Coaching Model Questions help you to become a better coach.
Want to read more about coaching? Check out this guide I developed with Sir John Whitmore. I covers 14 facts and figures about coaching and offers 30 performance coaching tips (with some advice on the GROW Coaching Model as well).
Want to learn more about strategy execution? Check out the free guide on how to execute your strategy.
GROW Model PPT
The GROW coaching model helps you to become a better coach. Now it’s time to put it in practice. I designed a useful GROW Model PowerPoint document with a long list of coaching questions for each step.
You can start with this list and add your favorite coaching questions. It’s the best way to put the GROW model in practice.