Using the GROW Coaching Model When Your Team is Stuck

As a new team leader or manager, your responsibility now goes beyond managing projects. It also includes managing the people who report to you.

At Hone, we believe a coaching approach is the best way to unleash your team’s capabilities.

Coaching often comes into play when teams get stuck. Progress stalls on a project. A direct report feels she isn’t developing her career. The team at large feels they’re not hitting team goals. Whatever the reason, you’re responsible for getting things moving.

That responsibility can feel heavy. It can be tempting to look back to your days of managing projects, not people. Hone training courses often point to a simple method for new leaders to coach their teams through gridlock: the GROW model.

Pioneered by Whitmore in Coaching for Performance, GROW is easy to remember: Goal, Reality, Options, Will. You don’t have to race back to your desk to get the notes. Think GROW; it applies to coaching conversations in a variety of contexts.

 

Goal

Every GROW coaching conversation starts by clarifying the goal.

In some circumstances, the goal already stated. In that case, your GROW opening question would likely start with: How might you reach this goal?

In others, your direct report might feel stuck because she doesn’t know the goal at hand. If so, ask questions like What do you really want?

Explore ways to make the goal measurable and timely. The more specific the goal, the more likely the GROW coaching model will lead to a successful outcome.

Reality

Next, have an open conversation about the reality of the situation.

Ask questions like:

  • Where do things stand now?
  • What’s working in the current situation?
  • What’s not working in the current situation?
  • What steps have already been taken?

You can’t fix gridlock until you understand why it exists. Looking at the reality of the situation helps you and your report understand what needs fixing.

Options

There are always options. In this stage of the GROW conversation, help your direct report explore hers.

Imagine you and your report are looking at a vase of flowers on the table. If you are on opposite sides of the table, you may see different colors or different varieties of flowers. In the coach role, your job is to rotate the vase.

Ask questions like: 

  • What other options do you see?
  • What is your best-case, ideal approach to this situation?
  • Who could help you with that idea?
  • What are some possible outcomes with that idea?

Way Forward

So many conversations stop after the brainstorming. The GROW model moves you to an outcome.

For the final stage, identify clear next steps. Ask:

  • What will you do?
  • What else will you do?
  • When will you do this?
  • What can I help with to get this done?
  • When and how should we check in on progress?

If the next step seems unclear, circle back and ask questions around Goal, Reality, and Options again.

Try It Out: The Grow Method

Practice on yourself before you unleash your coaching powers on someone else. Use the GROW model on a specific work goal you need to accomplish in the next week. Write out the steps and your thoughts on each stage to cement your learnings.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re challenged by a relationship with your peer Sam. You two are tasked with launching a marketing campaign in time for an event next month. You’re behind schedule because your working relationship hasn’t clicked yet.

Let’s practice the GROW model together.

Grow:

  • What’s your goal? You want to launch the marketing campaign on time. You also want the process to be efficient and smooth.

Reality:

  • Where do things stand now? The project is moving forward slowly and you’re afraid you’re going to miss the deadline. You’re frustrated by the process of working with Sam.
  • What’s not working in the current situation? Communication has stalled — every time you connect with Sam, you two leave the conversation with different ideas of what needs to happen. Sam likes to communicate online through your chat system. You’d prefer to talk in person.

Options:

  • What is your best-case, ideal approach to this situation? We sit down in person and address the challenge. Ideally, we decide on how we’ll communicate throughout the project.
  • What other options do you see? Some ideas include:
  • We push through this project and address the issue in the post-mortem.
  • I change partners for the project.
    • I talk to my manager about the issue.
    • I adapt my communication style to meet Sam’s.
    • I ask Sam to adapt his communication style to meet mine.

Way Forward:

  • What will you do? I’m going to present the options to my manager and ask for her advice.
  • When will you do this? In my next 1:1 with my manager later this week.

When and how should we check in on progress? After my 1:1.