Facilitate learning rather than to direct it.  GROW was originally conceived by Graham Alexander, tuned by Sir John Whitmore, promoted by Jerome de Flander.

GROW is a set of tools in a toolbox.  It’s an approach, an acronym, a philosophy that helps create a context to help individuals transform their potential into peak performance.

Performance coaching

You can achieve success by following the GROW coaching model.  However, without subscribing to the underlying philosophy, you will fall short of what is truly possible.

The essence of good coaching is not about you as a coach.  It’s about helping those you are coaching increase their confidence to take responsibility.

The process is important since it provides structure in the conversations – but you are not its slave.  Creating awareness and engagement will improve the impact of coaching dramatically.

The importance of coaching questions

Ask questions – don’t dictate answers.  It’s the only way to engage.  And engagement of those you are coaching is the single most critical factor for their success.

What questions to ask?

Good coaching questions evoke awareness and engender responsibility with your respondent.  “GROW” helps pick the right questions to improve performance coaching skills: asking the right coaching questions; and in the right order.


Whitmore’s model adopts 4 steps:

  • Goal Setting: identify, quantify and establish timescales for individual goals
  • Reality: explore the current situation
  • Options: identify and evaluate different action strategies
  • Will: what will you do by when?

The conversation may start at any one of the four stages of the GROW model.  Your respondent might begin by telling you about something he or she needs to achieve (Goal), or a current problem (Reality), or a new idea for improving things (Options) or by outlining an action plan under way (Will).

G is for Goal setting

A key step is to define and agree upon one or more goals that the respondent wishes to achieve.  Ideally, you should establish a clear goal for the coaching intervention itself and a long-term performance goal.  Ensure you both agree the objective of your conversation – even when you are coaching informally.  It’s important to give value and direction to any discussion.

Individual goal setting is both a crucial stage for performance coaching – and for strategy execution in general.  Goal setting goes beyond SMART.

Example coaching questions for the GROW Goal Setting phase can be found below.

R is for Reality

The most important criterion for examining the present situation is objectivity.  Most people think they are objective but, in reality, they are not.  Nobody is.

Many things cloud your, and your respondent’s objectivity including opinions, expectations, fear and prejudices.  Knowing this and aiming for objectivity helps.

It’s your challenge to come as close as possible to facts and evidenced based views – by-passing as many distortions as possible.  As a coach, help your respondent to remove as many unproven assumptions as possible.

We do know that exploring your respondent’s perceptions of reality is an important step.  We often try to solve a problem without fully considering the starting point – or are missing some of the information needed to resolve issues effectively.

Example coaching questions for the GROW Reality phase can be found below.

O is for Options

Once you and your respondent have explored the present reality, explore the possible – this means all potential options, behaviour, decisions or actions that could lead to an outcome that is better than present.

Generate as long a list as is appropriate.  As a coach during the Options stage we are not seeking the one right answer – rather your respondent should identify as many different ideas and solutions as may needed to cumulatively close the gap between present and taget outcomes.  Avoid obstacles like preferences, feasibility or need for completeness – they block the brainstorming process.  At this stage, creativity provides the real value.

Counter-intuitively, focus on quantity rather than quality and feasibility.  It’s easier to eliminate from a list of creative possibilities than re-open the discussion when you find that you need more.

Example coaching questions for the GROW Options phase can be found below.

W is for Will

What will you do by when?  This step transforms discussion into decisions, building on the outcomes of the previous steps.

By examining the present Reality and exploring Options, your respondent will now have ideas about how to achieve their personal goals.  However, without ownership to kick-start and drive actions into the future, ideas have no value.  Guide your respondent on taking responsibility and committing to action – this will maximize chances for success.  Now identify and quantify potential obstacles – and ways of overcoming them.  Delivering outcomes is a contract – and your respondent will need sign-off on the resources and management support needed.

During this phase, respondents are taking decisions – and good coaches ensure that it is the respondent that take the decision – and maintains choice and ownership.


Example coaching questions for the GROW Will phase can be found below.

Coaching questions

 Asking the right performance coaching questions is one of the most important building blocks of the GROW coaching model.  The art is how to ask the right coaching questions at the right time.

Goal Setting

  1. What is the aim of this discussion?
  2. What would need to happen for you to walk away feeling that this time was well spent?
  3. If I could grant you a wish for this session, what would it be?
  4. What would you like to happen that is not happening now, or what would you like not to happen that is happening now?
  5. What outcome would you like from this session/discussion/interaction?
  6. Can we do that in the time we have available?
  7. What do you want to achieve long term?
  8. What does success look like?
  9. How much personal control or influence do you have over your goal?
  10. What would be a milestone on the way?
  11. When do you want to achieve it by?
  12. Is that realistic?
  13. Is that positive, challenging, attainable?
  14. Will that be of real value to you?
  15. How will you measure it?


  1. What is happening now? (what, where, when, who, how much, how often). Be precise if possible.
  2. How do you know that this is accurate?
  3. How have you verified, or would you verify, that that is so?
  4. What other factors are relevant?
  5. Who is involved (directly and indirectly)?
  6. What is their perception?
  7. When things are going badly on this issue, what happens to you?
  8. What happens to the others directly involved?
  9. What is the effect on others?
  10. What have you done about this so far?
  11. What results did that produce?
  12. What is missing in the situation?
  13. What do you have that you’re not using?
  14. What is holding you back?
  15. What is really going on (intuition)?


  1. What could you do to change the situation?
  2. Tell me what possibilities for action you see. Do not worry about whether they are realistic at this stage.
  3. What approach/actions have you seen used, or used yourself, in similar circumstances?
  4. What else could you do?
  5. What if…? (time, power, money, etc.)
  6. Who might be able to help?
  7. Would you like another suggestion from me?
  8. Which options do you like the most?
  9. What are the benefits and costs of each?
  10. Which options are of interest to you?
  11. Would you like to choose an option to act on?


  1. What option or options do you choose?
  2. To what extent does this meet all your objectives?
  3. What are your criteria and measurements for success?
  4. When precisely are you going to start and finish each action step?
  5. What could arise to hinder you in taking these steps?
  6. What personal resistance do you have, if any, to taking these steps?
  7. What will you do to eliminate these external and internal factors?
  8. Who needs to know what your plans are?
  9. What support do you need and from whom?
  10. What will you do to obtain that support and when?
  11. What could I do to support you?
  12. What commitment on a 1-to-10 scale do you have to taking these agreed actions?
  13. What prevents this from being a 10?
  14. What could you do or alter to raise this commitment closer to 10?
  15. Is there anything else you want to talk about now or are we finished?