The GROW Coaching Model: How to Push Employees to Achieve Their Goals

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The GROW Coaching Model: How to Push Employees to Achieve Their Goals

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Every manager’s goal is to lead a successful team. But, achieving or surpassing your team goals, investing in your employees, and pushing projects over the finish line is easier said than done. 

Every manager’s secret weapon? Coaching. 

Coaching is the process of giving your employees the resources, knowledge, and opportunities they need to succeed and achieve their professional goals. It’s often used by managers when teams get “stuck.”

Like when a project’s progress stalls, a direct report feels stuck in her career, or if team morale is down after not hitting team targets. Whatever the reason, as a manager, you’re responsible for assessing the situation, making changes, and getting things moving again.

If that seems ambiguous, don’t worry. There’s a development strategy that can help leaders coach their teams through gridlock. It’s called the GROW coaching model.

What is the GROW coaching model? 

The GROW coaching model was first coined by Sir John Whitmore and his colleagues in the book, Coaching for Performance.  GROW is an easy-to-remember acronym, meaning: Goal, Reality, Options, Will. 

The GROW Coaching model: Goal, Reality, Options, and Way Forward

We will cover each section of the GROW coaching model in more depth below: 


Every GROW coaching conversation starts by clarifying your goal.

If you feel stuck, ask questions like, “What do you really want?” This could be to an employee who feels stuck in her career or to your team at the start of a meeting or quarter. Whoever your audience is, you must understand what they want to achieve before you can move on to the next steps in the GROW coaching model. 

TIP: Remember to make a goal SMART, or specific, measurable, attainable, and timely. The more specific the goal, the more likely the GROW coaching model will lead to a successful outcome.


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 are some obstacles that could get in the way of success? 
  • 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 and assess the broader scenario before moving forward to the next step.


There are always options. In this stage of the GROW coaching model, 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 both have a different view of and perspective on the same flowers sitting in front of you. You may see different colors or different varieties of flowers than your direct report. In the coach role, your job is to rotate the vase. Help her see things from a different perspective and grow as a result. 

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

While the momentum of many conversations stops after a brainstorm, the GROW model moves you to an outcome. This step is sometimes called “will” or, as we prefer at Hone, “way forward.” This is the final stage of the GROW coaching model and the time to identify and establish clear next steps.

At this stage, you should 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 still seems unclear, circle back and ask questions around Goal, Reality, and Options again.

A manager tries out the GROW coaching model for herself

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels

Try it out for yourself

Before you unleash your coaching powers on someone else, practice on yourself. Use the GROW coaching model on a specific work goal you need to accomplish in the next week or month. 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.


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


  • 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 both 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.


  • 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? 
    • We could push through this project and address the issue in the post-mortem.
    • I could try to 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.



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While the GROW coaching model is an effective way to push your employees to pursue their desires, it isn’t the only coaching framework out there.

If you’re looking to brush up on your coaching skills, the GROW coaching model, and more coaching frameworks, enroll in one of Hone’s most popular courses, The Coach Approach. You will learn how to deepen your listening skills, acknowledge the experiences of others, ask powerful questions to move the conversation forward in powerful ways, and more.


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