Coaching Tools 101 - The GROW Model as the ULTIMATE Coaching Tool, Questions and Why it Always Works!

Growing Seed Representing the GROW ModelThere are many, many different coaching models out there but I still haven't found anything that beats the GROW model for simplicity, effectiveness and results. If you embrace the GROW model - your clients will love you and you'll never lose track in a coaching session again.

What is the GROW Model?

The GROW model is a simple, structured coaching method to help your clients identify goals for their coaching session and commit to taking concrete action. In fact,  you probably use the GROW model (or T-GROW) without even realizing it.

The key elements of the (T) GROW Model we will look at are:

  • T - Topic (Session Topic)
  • G - Goal (Session Goal)
  • R - Reality (Where they are and what's going on for them)
  • O - Options (Ideas and brainstorming - what they COULD do to move forwards)
  • W - Will Do (Their actions - what they WILL do to move forwards)

PLUS - What's missing from the GROW Model

In reality it's probably more like ROTGOW or TROWG or TRORGWOW but these 5 key elements ALWAYS work!

Here's a Breakdown of the (T) GROW Model:

T - Topic:

While establishing the Topic often blends into the Goal and Reality parts of the GROW model, getting a topic up front - even a loose one - is the start point for any coaching session. Sometimes the client will come with a clear topic and other times we may start by discussing their 'Reality' to find out what they want to work on. Questions like, "What would put a smile on your face?", "What's been working for you since the last session?", "What hasn't been working for you?" can help to clarify a session Topic.

G - Goal:

This is the client's goal for the session - and while it doesn't have to be specific or 'SMART' it does need to be enough to give the session a clear purpose understood by both the client and the coach. For example, a session goal might be to establish a bigger goal or to gain some clarity in their lives - it just has to be enough for you to keep the client on track.

One of the things that makes coaching different from many other therapies is our focus on action and change. A session goal helps us keep the client focused and when the session drifts it gives us the ability to say, "We seem to be heading in a different direction here, is this what you want?" Tip: This tactic can be especially helpful if you have a client that likes to tell long stories.

And no, the goal doesn't have to be agreed right up front - although it's helpful if you can. A session goal can be 'evolved' as the session unfolds. And occasionally the 'real' goal of the session may not come out until the end when we ask our clients what their biggest win of the session was. This is when the client realizes their 'goal' for the session was simply to feel heard, to commit to themselves or to feel challenged or supported.

When we ensure the client understands what they want to get out of the session - we ensure the client receives value from coaching - and that they continue to learn and grow.

R - Reality:

Reality is about the client understanding their situation and how they got there. It's where we question, challenge, reframe and reflect back to our client where they are, what they've done so far, what's working and what isn't. It's about really getting into where the client is right now and why. It should include talking about feelings and digging into emotions, gut-feelings and intuition - often new or uncharted frontiers for our clients.

For me, the Reality section is the 'meat' of any coaching session where we raise our client's awareness around their values, priorities and beliefs - so they gain insights and learn about themselves.

O - Options:

If the client could solve their problems alone they would have done. Often what they need from us is help brainstorming, a push or some support to take an action they have been putting off. It may involve tweaking an existing action, challenging and inspiring them to make an action bigger or it could also mean shrinking an action to make it more achievable. Either way, a good dig around in the 'Options' to find actions and solutions that really work for our clients pays huge dividends in moving our clients forward. Tip: I have often found that the best and breakthrough actions come out toward the end of the Options discussion, so make sure you allow enough time... Check out our *FREE* 37 Questions to Liberate Your Clients From Themselves for some Options (and Action!) question ideas.

W - Will Do:

The essence of coaching is change - some sort of action - even if the action is to change the way they do something, to stop doing something or even do nothing! I always make sure every client leaves their session committed to at least ONE action otherwise our session would simply be a conversation. And while a conversation can be helpful - nothing changes unless something changes. Tip: Check-in with the clients about how they FEEL about their actions. Can they commit to them 100%? Is there time to fit the actions into their busy lives? Would they like to be stretched more, or do they need to simplify their actions to maximise the chances of success?

W can also be - "WHAT do you need from me?": Ask this question to find out what they need from you to support them.

W also stands for - WIN: "What was your biggest win of the session today?" As mentioned under 'Goal', I always ask some variation of this question at the end of my sessions. By asking this, we not only reinforce the value of coaching but over time both you and your client will learn what's really important to them.

So, what's missing from the GROW model?

For me the only thing that is missing is a review of actions set at the last session. It's possible this would come up under 'Topic' or 'Reality', but unless we explicitly ask it could get missed. I usually start my sessions by reviewing the actions from the previous session - but at whatever point you do this, an action review is essential for accountability.

GROW Model Summary:

The GROW model is THE coaching session basics. Without any one of these elements, something would be missing. For me, the great thing about the GROW model is that you can apply any other coaching tool or model over the top - but as long as you follow this simple structure, you can't go wrong. It's your ultimate coaching tool!

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  1. Russell O'Neill

    Very valuable and informative. I enjoyed reading about your relaxed approach when using the GROW model. I've read other coaching GROW models that explicitly say to stick with the traditional G-R-O-W and not to break the pattern. But I've felt this to be to rigid and robotic and the continuity lacks. Great post 🙂 Question, have you had success with maintaining long term coaching relationships with your clients with this flexibility?

    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Russell,
      Thanks for your kind comments. I have coached like this for a long time, but it was probably a while before I felt comfortable trusting that I would 'get everything done' in a session and not miss something... For me as long as the client gains a deeper understanding of themselves and has an action plan at the end this is what it is all about. And clients are fine with this approach - I'm pretty firm about covering all the bases -it's just a case of 'dancing in the moment' to allow things to unfold. After some exploring, reflection, activity I always bring it back to "so what will you do with this new information" or similar. For me it's the GROW model is a framework but not a rigid structure. If that makes sense. I think Clients can sense the 'container' that I hold for them, so no issues with keeping clients using this approach - for me at least. Hope this helps Russell! Keep up all your good work. Warmly, EL

      • Russell O'Neill

        Thanks Emma, I've used this model for a long time too and enjoy the flexibility that the framework allows. It had always bothered me though during my training that the 'Masters' specifically mentioned to stick to the sections and try not to drift. I found that approach difficult and unnatural. Cheers again for your reply 🙂

      • Emma-Louise

        Hi Russell! Glad you found the article helpful. I still do stick to the sections loosely but I jump around (or perhaps a more coachlike phrase would be 'dance in the moment') as to what needs the client has in that moment and what they want to express. I find it hard to imagine serving the client if they have a great idea and you say, "No, You must finish defining your goal first!" Warmly, EL

  2. Jennifer

    This is a great website, so much valuable information. Thank you. Very valuable and informative for one just starting on this journey of coaching.

  3. Fusun Cagan

    Hello Emma,

    I saw your web site by coincidence and found it very helpful. Your post is as if you are talking to me in person, very natural and informative.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience.


  4. Simon Teague

    Yes, yes, yes. You don't need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to coaching. Using GROW or TGROW in a performance environment is by far the most effective way to find out what motivates an individual and explore ways in which they can overcome their limitations and focus on the key strengths/activities that make them successful. TGROW is a full-proof combination of addressing action and attitude and creating transformational change. It underpins everything we do at Best Year Yet and its one of the tools that is helping our coaching organisation go from strength to strength.
    We are looking for good quality coaches that use tools like this and would want to be part of a bigger team, so any help or suggestions you have in this regard Emma-Louise would be gratefully received...

    • Emma-Louise

      Thanks Simon! I agree. And for me, how useful TGROW is depends on the coach - and how they use the model. It's totally flexible to every client's needs!

      I learned T-GROW at The Coaching Academy (a UK - and Australia I think - coach training school), so you could contact Bev James, the CEO of The Coaching Academy or Jan Lonnen, the Qualifications Director. If you want to connect with me on LinkedIn (Emma-Louise Elsey) I could connect you with them?

      Let me know. Warmly, EL

  5. nadine

    1. How the TGROW model can be applied to elements of the wheel of life in order to establish life balance?

    2. The TGROW model of analysis in relation to the “Wheel of life”?

    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Nadine, are you asking these as questions? I absolutely agree that the TGROW model can be used with the Wheel of Life to help a client find balance.

      2 possible ways to use the wheel:
      1) Use the Wheel of Life Template Your T is life balance, ask the client G questions to establish a goal for life balance, then explore their current R (reality) including where they get in their own way, the factors that prevent them from balance and where they may already have some balance, then their O (options) and finally agree actions, their W - what they Will do.
      2) You could also take a blank wheel template and ask the client to label the 8 segments with 8 things that mean a balanced life for them. Then pick one segment (or do each segment in turn) and establish a goal. And then follow through the remaining R - reality, O - options and W - will do actions!

      You may also find this article helpful:

      Warmly, Emma-Louise

  6. Anitha Aswath

    This is my absolute favorite and 'go-to' site to find a coaching tool or model that I can really trust and rely upon. Thank you for sharing your wisdom so generously! I have recently started on my leadership coaching journey and this is gold! Keep up the fabulous work on this website!

    • Emma-Louise

      Dear Anitha! What a lovely comment - and I am very flattered that we are your go-to site for coaching tools and models you can trust and rely on! You made my day! 🙂 Warmly, Emma-Louise


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