The Quiet Coach-2

January 13, 2023


Everyone who’s trained to be a coach is familiar with the GROW framework – an acronym that expands to Genuineness, Realism, Optimism and Wit.

Ok, ok, just checking to see if you’re really paying attention to this 😁

GROW is a framework developed by Sir John Whitmore and team in the 1980s and it’s an extremely helpful way to navigate the flow of a coaching conversation (and many other conversations as well but that’s a topic for another post).

When a coach uses this framework, we are reaffirming to clients that we believe in their capacity to identify what they want for themselves; to reflect on their internal and external reality and to take action to help them bring about the change they want to see.

Given how familiar everyone is with this, I’m going to use this space to talk about some common challenges I’ve seen coaches face with applying it in conversations.

Not spending enough time on the Goal

There are many reasons why we don’t do this

  • It seems like we’re putting pressure on the client to articulate a firm goal
  • It’s more exciting to get into the meat of the work
  • It seems evident to us what the client should want given the context

I’ve found, time and again, that when we go back over a conversation that didn’t go well, the root cause is likely to be a poorly defined goal. Contracting (the process of establishing agreement with a client on what they want) is a nuanced topic but for now, just keep in mind that it’s important to always start with your favourite variation of these two questions

  • What’s the change you want to bring about in your life?
  • What would be a good use of our coaching conversation to help you move towards that?

Moving straight into Options from Goal

We’ve all been there. A client says, “I want to think about what I can do to influence my stakeholder”. The coach says “Ok, what can you do?”

If this was a comic strip, the third panel would be the client saying (in a thought bubble, most clients are very polite) “if I knew that, would I be here, you dodo?”

The coach here is coming from a well-meaning space; where they trust the client’s ability to come up with solutions. But it is important to provide the scaffolding – the supportive questions that help a client broaden their thinking. It is in that expanded space that the client can see more solutions.

Take your time helping the client explore reality.

Hurrying into Will (action planning) at the slightest sign that the client has an Option

When a client comes up with an idea to resolve their situation, it’s possible (though not always) that this is an idea that has been knocking around their brains for a while. If they haven’t taken action on it, it’s possible that there is something missing.

I find it very helpful to slow some clients down at this stage and ask if there could be any other options that could work.

Not spending enough time on the Will

I’ve been in this situation several times where I recognize there’s only five minutes left in a conversation and there’s just about time to ask “Did you get what you needed?”

Coaching is a process that works because a coach helps deepen the awareness of the client and further the action the client will take post the session. Both parts are equally important.

So make sure you have enough time to ask these questions

  • What has become clearer to you vis-à-vis the goal you started with?
  • What would you like to do to act on this awareness (and other action planning questions as appropriate)?

Here’s what you can do to strengthen your application of the GROW framework

  1. Spend enough time and energy on establishing the Goal
    • What’s the change you want to bring about in your life?
    • What would be a good use of our coaching conversation to help you move towards that?
  2. Help the client explore their internal and external Reality – this is where true change happens
  3. Invite them to consider more Options than the initial one
  4. Account for enough time to consolidate the Will
    • What has become clearer to you vis-à-vis the goal you started with?
    • What would you like to do to act on this awareness (and other action planning questions as appropriate)?


Let me know what you think of this post please and do write in if you have questions you’d like me to address here.


8 responses to “The Quiet Coach-2”

  1. Yatish Chandrasekhar says:

    GROW is perhaps the simplest and yet the trickiest models I’ve come across. It helps the coach to do a brilliant job, when she doesn’t skid or waver throw the steps. Thank you Sunita for uncovering the blind-spots and the blinding spots in GROW!

  2. Meenakshi Shivram says:

    This insight into where most of us need to be mindful of can only come from a Master Coach!! Thanks a huge ton. Can’t wait for the next blog.

  3. Aparna says:

    GROW model is a powerful for any conversations. Articulation and tying it to coaching questions is carved out beautifully

  4. Sridhar says:

    Totally agree! The GROW model is a great one – simple enough for beginning coaches and yet suitable for all levels of coaching. On the topic of common challenges coaches face, I am reminded of one of the earliest bits of feedback I received, to just “slow it down”, and not to get ahead of client. Great piece.

  5. Shanti Sharma says:

    Soo relatable. I’ve traversed this journey and as a Mentor Coach seeing others traverse the same journey. Lovely articulation. I am going shamelessly reuse it and point people here.

  6. Subha Chandrasekaran says:

    Thank you for this. It is a great refresher and also a reminder of where, over a period of time, as a coach also, we develop patterns and run our own versions of GROW. We need to be mindful of how we use GROW.

  7. Gitanjali says:

    Thank you for this well articulated and clear laying out of a coaching session. The blog itself on the whole followed the GROW format:). Waiting to read the next one.

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