GROW Model for Coaching

November 09, 2012  |   Coaching Latest News   |     |   0 Comment

Whitmore (2002) describes a four stage coaching model, the first letter of each stage forms the acronym GROW: G – goal setting, R – current reality, O – options, W – will. 



The model is based on a behavioural approach to coaching (Passmore, 2007).  In this respect, like other behavioural models, it allows coachees ‘to design their own ways of operating to create learning and growth’ (Passmore, 2007, p. 75).  Dembkowski and Eldridge (2003) describe it as probably the best known model in the UK and comment that in a 2002 study of coaches it was used by 34% of respondents.


Passmore (2007) observes that the GROW model is viewed as a non- psychological model suited to use by coaches without psychological training.  Palmer and Whybrow (2007, p. 4) believe that it is most often trained in a ‘psychological vacuum’.  The comments by these writers imply that the effectiveness of the model for coaching may be determined by the depth of psychological understanding required to help clients resolve their issues.  As an example of this, I recently coached a client who was angry that senior managers did not accept all his proposals.  Had I followed the GROW model, without some understanding of psychology, we may have created ways of helping him control his frustration, however his underlying problem was his belief system.  We used a cognitive behavioural approach in the reality stage which enabled him to see that he was setting himself perfectionist and unreasonable standards.  By amending this belief he was able to accept changes to proposals with less difficulty.  As a result we addressed the cause of his problem on an ongoing basis, rather than trying to reduce the effects of his symptoms each time they occurred.


The GROW model does not explicitly include an assessment stage which is a part of other coaching approaches such as ACHIEVE – A-  assess current situation, C- creative brainstorming of alternatives to current situation, H- hone goals, I- initiate options, E- evaluate options, V- valid action programme design, E- encourage momentum (Dembkowski and Eldridge, 2003).  As a part of Assessment I would normally include an understanding of a client’s personal history and competence in relation to the topic for coaching.  Excluding this important stage could potentially cause difficulties with the coaching.  Lee (2003, p.43) for example observes that ignoring the influences of somebody’s past is likely to reduce the value of coaching.


In the way that Whitmore (2002) describes the use of the model it appears to have grounding in coaching and learning theory.  Whitmore explains that a coach using GROW should operate in a non directive way, using Socratic questions in order to raise client awareness and increase responsibility.  The client should be in control of the agenda, it is the coach’s role to manage the process.  These principles link to Knowles’ (1978) theory of Andragogy, for example they enable coachees to be self-directed and therefore more motivated to learn.  The stages of the GROW model also map to Kolb’s learning cycle (Cox, 2006).  The model emphasises the importance of goals.  Whitmore (2002) explains that it is important to set goals before any exploration of reality, in this way the goals are less likely to be tainted by the current situation and more likely to be aspirational.  The overall approach to goals appears to have strong relationships with goal setting theory in that they should be challenging, specific and proximal, in order to provide direction and motivation (Johnston, 2005).


I take the view that the GROW model can be an effective model for coaching dependent on the skills and training of the coach.  The model can be enhanced by a trained coach with the use of other tools and techniques relevant to the different stages.




Tony Goddard



Cox, E. (2006) ‘An Adult Learning Approach to Coaching’. In: D. Stober and A. Grant (eds.) Evidence Based Coaching Handbook. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 193-217.


Dembkowski, S. and Eldridge, F. (2003) ‘Beyond GROW: A new coaching model’, The International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching, Vol. I, Issue 1[Online]. European Mentoring & Coaching Council. Retrieved from:


Johnston, S. (2005) ‘Applying Goal Setting Theory to Coaching’, The Coaching Psychologist, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 10-12.


Knowles, M. (1978) The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. 2nd ed. Houston: The Gulf Publishing Company.



Lee, G. (2003) Leadership Coaching: From personal insight to organisational performance. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.


Palmer, S. and Whybrow, A. (2007) ‘Coaching Psychology: an introduction’. In: S. Palmer and A. Whybrow (eds.) Handbook of Coaching Psychology. Hove: Routledge. pp.1-20.


Passmore, J. (2007) ‘Behavioural Coaching’. In: S. Palmer and A. Whybrow (eds.) Handbook of Coaching Psychology. Hove: Routledge. pp. 73-85.


Whitmore, J. (2002) Coaching for Performance. 3rd ed. London: Nicholas Brearley Publishing.



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