Skip to main content

What is the GROW Model?

The GROW Model is probably the most widely-utilised goal-setting and problem-solving model in the UK, perhaps the world. It provides a simple and methodical, yet-powerful framework of four main stages of a coaching or mentoring session. Though no-one can claim to be the sole inventor of the model, thought-leaders and writers Alan Fine and Graham Alexander, along with former racing car champion John Whitmore made significant contributions to the contemporary model, which was largely developed during the 1980s and 1990s.


The acronym GROW stands for:

  • Goal
  • Reality
  • Opportunity
  • Will/Wrap-up/What next/Way forward?

These four words and phrases correspond to the four main stages of a coaching or mentoring session.

Illustration of the GROW model and it's steps.

1. Goal

During the first stage of the process, the goal is the priority. Once a topic for discussion is agreed upon, specific outcomes and objectives should be discussed by the coach/mentor and the client/mentee/pupil. These may be short term goals, or – when appropriate, and a clear path to the outcome can be agreed – they may be long term aims. Goals should be SMART : Specific, Measurable, Accurate, Realistic and Timely. The goal should also be inspirational and positive, whilst being challenging and requiring them to stretch themselves and their abilities to achieve it.

Example questions for a coach:

  • What do you want?
  • What does that look like?
  • What will people be saying to you?
  • How will you feel once this is achieved?
  • What is different?

2. Reality

During the second stage of the process, both coach and mentee outline and discuss the current reality of the situation using a variety of different methods and techniques. The coach may invite the client to assess their own situation before offering advice or specific feedback on the current scenario and obstacles faced. The focus should be on the client, and the coach should be looking to identify potential in the situation, rather than problems. They should examine any assumptions made by the client with regards to their reality and outlook on future goals and discard any history or events that are irrelevant to the goals at hand.

Example questions:

  • What is happening right now?
  • How far are you from an ideal situation?
  • How do you feel about your current situation?
  • What is the impact on you and your life?
  • What is standing in the way of your goal?

3. Opportunity

Once reality and all obstacles to current goals have been discussed, and irrelevant ‘pseudo-obstacles’ discarded, the options as to how to overcome current issues preventing progress should be examined. At first, the full range of options should be put-forward and discussed, predominantly inviting suggestions from the client. Any suggestions posited by the coach or mentor should be offered carefully and with consideration of the client’s overall position. By the end of stage 3, the coach should ensure that at least some choices have been made with regards to overcoming obstacles, and there is significantly less ambiguity surrounding immediate actions.

Example questions:

  • What could you have?
  • What ideas do you have?
  • What actions have worked for you in the past?
  • Who could help you to achieve your goals?
  • What information do you need and how could you acquire it?

4. Will/Wrap-up/What next?/Way Forward

The final stage of the process is when the client commits to decisive actions in order to move towards their goal. A plan is drawn up, with the coach guiding the ideas discussed by the mentee – including specific guidelines and timings in order to make achievable progress. Any potential obstacles that may be encountered during the process are identified and subsequent solutions are considered, including an outline of the support required throughout. Both mentor and mentee should remain flexible throughout the entire process and goals/actions may need to be altered to react to both positive or negative events.

Example questions:

  • What will you do to achieve your goals?
  • How and when will you do it?
  • Who will you talk to throughout?
  • Are there any other measures you need to put into place?
  • How committed are you to this action?

GROW in Leadership and Management

GROW is just one of many coaching and mentoring models which can be incorporated into leadership and managerial practices, across a variety of industries

  1. It can be used as a basis to establish a methodical and systematic process by which the efficiency and effectiveness of internal coaching practices can be improved, to provide a greater return on investment. 
  2. In addition, if team leaders or managers are equipped with coaching tools such as GROW, they can be utilised alongside motivational and other methods to significantly improve workplace performance, at both team and individual levels. 
  3. Effective coaching also provides return by equipping individual mentees with the tools and awareness to take greater responsibility for obstacles and goal-setting in their own lives.