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The GROW Model

A Simple Process for Coaching and Mentoring

GROW stands for: Goal, Reality, Options (or Obstacles), Will (or Way Forward)


First, you decide where you are going (the goal), and establish where you currently are (your current reality).

You then explore various routes (the options) to your destination. In the final step, establishing the will, you ensure that you're committed to making the journey, and are prepared for the obstacles that you could meet on the way.


How to Use the Tool

To structure a coaching or mentoring session using the GROW Model, take the following steps:


1. Establish the Goal

First, you and your team member need to look at the behavior that you want to change, and then structure this change as a goal   that she wants to achieve.

Make sure that this is a SMART goal: one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

When doing this, it's useful to ask questions like:

  • How will you know that your team member has achieved this goal? How will you know that the problem or issue is solved?
  • Does this goal fit with her overall career objectives? And does it fit with the team's objectives?

2. Examine the Current Reality

Next, ask your team member to describe his current reality.

This is an important step: Too often, people try to solve a problem or reach a goal without fully considering their starting point, and often they're missing some information that they need in order to reach their goal effectively.

As your team member tells you about his current reality, the solution may start to emerge.

Useful coaching questions in this step include the following:

  • What is happening now (what, who, when, and how often)? What is the effect or result of this?
  • Have you already taken any steps towards your goal?
  • Does this goal conflict with any other goals or objectives?

3. Explore the Options

Once you and your team member have explored the current reality, it's time to determine what is possible – meaning all of the possible options for reaching her objective.

Help your team member brainstorm   as many good options as possible. Then, discuss these and help her decide on the best ones.

By all means, offer your own suggestions in this step. But let your team member offer suggestions first, and let her do most of the talking. It's important to guide her in the right direction, without actually making decisions for her.

Typical questions that you can use to explore options are as follows:

  • What else could you do?
  • What if this or that constraint were removed? Would that change things?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
  • What factors or considerations will you use to weigh the options?
  • What do you need to stop doing in order to achieve this goal?
  • What obstacles stand in your way?

4. Establish the Will

By examining the current reality and exploring the options, your team member will now have a good idea of how he can achieve his goal.

That's great – but in itself, this may not be enough. The final step is to get your team member to commit to specific actions in order to move forward towards his goal. In doing this, you will help him establish his will and boost his motivation.

Useful questions to ask here include:

  • So, what will you do now, and when? What else will you do?
  • What could stop you moving forward? How will you overcome this?
  • How can you keep yourself motivated?
  • When do you need to review progress? Daily, weekly, monthly?

Finally, decide on a date when you'll both review his progress. This will provide some accountability, and allow him to change his approach if the original plan isn't working.

Spend time with each and every employee and get to know their jobs, career and development goals, hopes and dreams, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, the names of their children and pets, where they live, and anything else that’s important to them.



1. Where are we going?

The first question deals with the "big picture". The executive outlines where the larger organization is going in terms of vision, goals and priorities. The executive then asks the direct reports where they think the larger organization should be going. By involving direct reports in this ongoing dialogue, executives can build alignment and commitment to the larger organizational vision.

It is important to note that the Six-Question approach does not assume that the executive will agree with every direct report on every issue. This will not (and should not) be the case. Leadership is not a "popularity contest". Sometimes direct reports (like all humans) may have bad ideas. In some cases the executive may choose to say, "In this case, I disagree." It is important that executives focus on understanding disagreements and respecting differences of opinion. It is also important that executives need to only "win the big ones" and that they can "let go" on minor issues that may be more important to their direct reports than to them.


2. Where are you going?

Question two deals with the direct reports' vision, goals and priorities for their part of the organization. Direct reports discuss where their part of the organization is going. Executives give their view on where they think this part of the organization should be going. By the end of this discussion two types of alignment should have been achieved: 1) the vision, goals and priorities of the direct reports' parts of the organization should be aligned with the executives' vision of the larger organization and 2) the individual goals and priorities of executives and direct reports should be aligned.


3. What is going well?

One key element of effective coaching is providing positive recognition for achievement. Executives begin this part of the dialogue with an assessment of what the direct reports and their organizations are doing well. Then executives ask their direct reports a question that is seldom asked, "What do you think that you and your part of the organization are doing well?" By asking this question executives may learn about "good news" that may have otherwise been missed.

In the past five years, I have asked hundreds of executives the question, "Do you feel as busy or busier today than your have felt in your entire life?" About 80% of the executives that I have asked have said yes. A major reason that executives fail to give deserved recognition to direct reports is not maliciousness; it is ignorance. Many executives are so busy that they don't know all the good things that the people who report to them are doing. Direct reports may feel under-appreciated because executives don't recognize their achievements. In many cases, the executives would recognize these achievements if they only understood what they were! By asking, "What are you doing well?" executives have a great opportunity to understand positive aspects of performance that they could have otherwise missed. This process has been shown to consistently improve direct reports' feedback on the item, "Provides positive recognition for achievement."


4. What are key suggestions for improvement?

Executives begin this part of the dialogue by giving direct reports constructive suggestions for the future. These suggestions should be limited to key "opportunities for improvement". The average human cannot remember eight unrelated words on a piece of paper! Giving too many suggestions is almost as bad as giving none. Direct reports should listen to the suggestions with a focus on understanding, not judging what is being said. Executives should come across as "trying to help" not "playing God".

Next, executives should ask another (seldom-asked) great coaching question, "If you were your own coach, what suggestions would you have for yourself?" By listening to their direct reports, executives may learn that their original coaching suggestions need to be modified. Executives may end up saying, "Now that I have heard your ideas, let me change my suggestions. I think the areas that you are discussing are more important than the ones that I mentioned."


5. How can I help?

As you have gathered from this article, a key to effective coaching is asking the right questions. One of the greatest coaching questions an executive can ask is, "How can I help?" Executives can begin by listening to their direct reports' suggestions on how they can become more helpful. They can also participate in the dialogue by suggesting approaches and then asking, "Do you feel this approach will help you become more effective?"

In some cases executives who receive poor feedback as coaches attack the problem by simply spending more time coaching. This can do more harm than good. The key to improvement is not to do more coaching. The key is to provide coaching to the right people on the right topics. In some cases less coaching in some areas may be what is needed! By asking executives can make the most effective use of their limited time.


6. What suggestions do you have for me?

Extensive research on the impact of direct report feedback and follow-up on leadership effectiveness has shown a clear, undeniable pattern. Leaders that ask for suggestions from their direct reports - focus on improving 1-2 key behaviors - and follow-up on a quarterly basis - are almost always seen as dramatically increasing in leadership effectiveness . By asking, "What suggestions do you have for me?" executives change the dynamics of the coaching process. Traditional coaching is sometimes thought of as a one-way monologue that focuses on, "Let me tell you what you can do to improve." The Six-Question approach creates a two-way dialogue that focuses on, "Let's try to help each other." Direct reports are much more willing to be coached by executives, if the executives are willing to be coached by them!

SMART Action Plan



A specific goal will usually answer the five 'W' questions:

  • What: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
  • Who: Who is involved?
  • Where: Identify a location.
  • Which: Identify requirements and constraints.


A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How will I know when it is accomplished?
  • Indicators should be quantifiable


An Achievable goal will usually answer the question:

  • How: How can the goal be accomplished?


A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Does this match our other efforts/needs?
  • Are you the right person?
  • Is it applicable in the current socio- economic- technical environment?


A time-bound goal will usually answer the question:

  • When?
  • What can I do six months from now?
  • What can I do six weeks from now?
  • What can I do today?


Skill: This is the employability skill that you are planning to develop.



Objective: This is a broad idea of what you are going to do to develop that skill.



Tasks: This is where you need to go into more detail. Here you should break down your objective into a few tasks that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.




Resources/help needed from: You should think about the people, services or resources that you will need to help you achieve the tasks you’ve set yourself. These could be within the University or beyond. This will help you determine how Achievable and Realistic your objectives are.




Potential problems: This is a space to think about any potential barriers to you completing the task you’ve set. You should think about how you would overcome them if they started to hinder your development. You may need to amend your ‘Resources needed’ column as you think of potential problems.


Often being aware these potential problems is enough to avoid them, but you might also need to alter your plan if any of them arise.




Evidence of success: Here you will write what measurement you will use to determine whether or not you have achieved your objective. Again, avoid being vague or you won’t when you’ve completed your task!




Completion/review date: It is important that you set a deadline for when you plan to complete the individual tasks. This avoids procrastinating and keeps your development on track. If a task is ongoing, have you determined whether this is to be completed daily, monthly, weekly etc? You should still set a date for review to make sure you are keeping on top of an ongoing task. You will have quite a few of these, so make sure you stagger them and set a reminder in whatever calendar/diary you use. 

Active Listening


The HEAR model:

H—Hear the speaker’s words.

E—Empathise with the speaker; put yourself in her shoes.

A—Analyse the speaker’s words and thoughts.

R—Respond is the last stage of hearing.


What financial mistakes do 30-year-olds regret the most?


I asked my friends, ex-officemates, high school and college batchmates recently and these are their top answers.





#1 I regret not learning how to budget my money early.

“I used to spend my income on whatever I want because I lived with my parents. But now that I’m living on my own, I’m finding it hard to budget my money to pay for my rent and other living expenses. If I had learned budgeting early on, I know I won’t be having these much difficulties.”


#2 I wish I didn’t procrastinate on building an emergency fund.

“In my 20s, I assigned my credit cards as my emergency fund. That was a big mistake – A BIG MISTAKE. If only I got into the habit of saving early, I know I wouldn’t be in so much credit card debt now.”


#3 I regret spending like there’s no tomorrow.

“I spent during payday like it was Christmas. It was nice and fun at first, but after a few years, regret suddenly comes when you hear friends quitting their jobs and starting their own businesses, while you’re still stuck at being an employee, with no savings.”





#4 I regret going into credit card debt.

“Treating credit cards as free money was the biggest financial mistake I did. I had to quit a good-paying job to save face back then because collection agencies were calling my office and it was embarrassing to my colleagues, and most especially, to my boss.”


#5 I wish I didn’t learn how to borrow money from friends.

“I was blessed with generous friends whom I can always borrow money from. They won’t charge interest and would even let me pay whenever I can. I’m no longer friends with them. They started to ignore me when they found out I usually just spend the money to go out on weekends.”





#6 I now realize that keeping up with fads and trends was pointless.

“I used to spend all my money on the latest fashion trends, and the newest mobile phones. After years of doing this, I now have a closet of outmoded clothes, a pile of obsolete gadgets and no savings in the bank.”


#7 I regret upgrading my lifestyle beyond what I could afford.

“One time, I got a P2,000 salary increase from my boss. The next day, I enrolled in a gym with a P2,500 monthly membership. Who in their right mind would do that, right? Well, that’s how stupid I was back then – to think I am an engineering major.”


#8 I wish I didn’t ignore the reality of inflation.

“I get at least 10% salary increase every year while according to reports, the Philippine inflation rate is around 4% – so that means I’m okay, right? WRONG! A person’s inflation rate is always much higher. I own a car, and fuel prices alone have increased around 7% every year. That’s why I’m now wiser and monitor my spending.”





#9 I wish I didn’t became complacent with having my salary as my only source of income.

“I used to think I was a valuable employee and I had a long career ahead of me in the company. That was until they decided to cut costs and had to let me go. Thinking that my job was secure and I could live the rest of my life as a salary-earner was the biggest financial mistake of my life.”


#10 I regret not starting a business when I had the chance.

“I’m now married with kids and cannot easily quit my job to start a business. Looking back, I wish I had the courage to go into entrepreneurship when I was still single and living with my parents because I could afford to take higher risks back then.”


#11 I wish I hadn’t stopped learning.

“When I graduated college, I thought I had already said goodbye to books and classrooms. Now, I see my peers having better careers and higher paying jobs because they continued to invest in their education through self-study and attending skills-improvement seminars.”





#12 I wish I got into the habit of organizing my financial documents early.

“As weird as it sounds, I wish I learned how to properly manage my financial documents early. Just the simple act of organizing my bills and receipts now allows me to monitor my expenses and not miss payment deadlines, which can be costly if you do.”


#13 I regret not learning about investments early.

“I always thought investing is only for the rich, but I was wrong. If I had learned about the stock market and mutual funds when I was in my 20s, I know I would have enough capital now to start my own business and wouldn’t have to take out loans to buy a car and a house.”


#14 I wish I didn’t ignore the future financial needs of my parents.

“I’m part of the sandwich generation and the health and medical expenses of my parents is making a huge dent on my finances. If only I had enough foresight that this would happen, knowing that my parents failed to plan for their retirement, then I wouldn’t be in so much financial difficulty right now.”


#15 I wish I had set long-term financial goals when I was in my 20s.

“My life priorities changed when my first son was born, now I’m inspired and motivated in giving him a good financial future. But when I think about it, if only I had known about the importance of having long-term goals a decade ago, I know my life could have been better today.”





#16 I regret going into debt for a wedding.

“Oh to be young and clueless about life and love. Me and my husband wanted to have the perfect wedding, so we removed all the stops and spent more than we could afford. The debt we incurred put a lot of strain in our relationship, which made the first few years of our marriage difficult.”


#17 I wish I hadn’t spent partying every weekend when I was in my 20s.

“I used to spend every weekend in bars with my friends, drinking and partying all night. Now, I regret not taking the time to travel and experience other things that life had to offer. I felt I wasted so much money on alcohol when I could have saved the money instead to see the world.”


#18 I wish I didn’t rush into buying a car.

“I wanted to keep up with my friends, who were all buying their first cars. So I took out an auto loan, which really hurt my finances. I never properly planned that purchase, and didn’t realize until much later that car maintenance is very costly. If I were to do it all over again, I would have used the money to start a business instead.”


#19 I wish I didn’t ignore my health.

“Diabetes runs in my family and I was foolish to think that I won’t get it until I’m old. Now, not only do I have it, but I also have kidney complications. If only I had cared for my health better, I wouldn’t be spending so much on medicines and treatment.”


#20 I regret shopping whenever I’m depressed or bored.

“Whenever I feel down, I’d go out and buy myself something nice, which felt good BUT that feeling doesn’t really last. After a few days, I’m back to being depressed or bored. I wish I discovered early on that the best way to deal with those negative feelings is to change your perspective about life and volunteering in activities that help other people.”