The Grow Model

The world’s best coaching model for everyday coaching in organizations


Sir John’s Whitmore’s GROW Model

A simple framework driven by a powerful coaching philosophy

Engage people and inspire great performance by adding structure to your conversations and meetings. The GROW Model improves decision making, problem solving and goal setting, and puts learning and enjoyment at the heart of performance. The simple framework is valued by leaders and coaches, whether for a quick check-in, a team meeting, a coaching or mentoring session or planning a long-term change initiative.

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1-day and 2-day courses for using GROW effectively

Sir John Whitmore first published GROW in 1992. Now one of the most established and successful coaching models, Sir John’s Whitmore’s GROW Model is part of a deeper concept. He and his team at Performance Consultants have spent three decades helping coaches, leaders and whole organizations learn how to use GROW to maximum effect. Sir John explained that, by itself, GROW is not coaching and any dictator can apply the framework. To access the real power of GROW, let Performance Consultants teach you what the coaching pioneer taught us.


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How the GROW Model Works

From Inspiration to Action

As the graphic shows, GROW is an acronym for the four key stages in a successful coaching conversation: G-oal, R-eality, O-ptions, W-ill. The model provides a tried and tested framework for performance improvement and people development. The principles are so solid that it is simple as well as powerful. And if you add a coaching mindset and some basic coaching skills, GROW is transformational!

In his book Coaching for Performance, Sir John makes it clear that the key to GROW is to spend sufficient time exploring “G” and then move flexibly through the sequence according to your intuition, including revisiting the goal if needed.

Setting goals that are inspiring and challenging, not just SMART (specific, measurable and achievable in a realistic time frame), will promote self-motivation and responsibility, leading to increased productivity and personal satisfaction. A goal that is personally framed within the organization’s goal will make the difference.

In the final “W” stage, focus the energy on what will be done and by when. It is in this final stage that discussion turns into decision and intention converts to action. “Will” is the barometer of success.

GROW promotes a coaching style of leadership built on partnership and collaboration. This creates alignment and expands creativity. It works for individuals and teams, for short-term and long-term challenges and objectives, by identifying:

  1. 1. goals and aspirations;

  2. 2. internal and external obstacles;

  3. 3. strengths and resources; and

  4. 4. actions that lead to continuous learning and success.

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Origins of the GROW Model

Defining the Four Stages of Performance Coaching

In 1979 Sir John Whitmore and Graham Alexander brought The Inner Game to Europe, with the blessing of Inner Game creator Tim Gallwey. They soon realized the value of The Inner Game for leaders and managers of organizations. As pioneers of “performance coaching”, they spent much of the 1980s developing the methodology, concepts and techniques for performance improvement in organizations. Wanting to make a real difference to people, they showed how it was possible to grow not just performance but also learning and enjoyment. Individuals become more aware, more responsible and gained a powerful sense of purpose in their work.
In 1986 the management consulting firm McKinsey became their client. Many of the programmes they ran for McKinsey included experiential coaching work on tennis courts. The coaching was so successful at improving performance and unlocking potential that McKinsey asked them to come up with an underpinning framework of coaching – a model on which to hang what was happening on the courts and elsewhere in the programmes.
So they videoed themselves and their colleagues coaching, they invited neurolinguistic programming (NLP) experts to look at what they did, they debriefed to try to discover what was happening and whether there was a model that played out in their unconscious competence. And yes, there was – whether on the tennis court or in a business setting.

Initially they put it into the 7S Coaching Model because McKinsey had their existing 7S Framework but it was tortuous. And really it looked like 1, 2, 3, 4 or sometimes 1, 3, 4 or just 1, 2, 3 etc. The acronym GROW came out of the four key stages they identified: Goal, Reality, Options, Will. They bounced it and a few other ideas off an internal communications person at McKinsey who said GROW would fly well, and liked it because it was simple and because it was actions and outcome focused. They had no idea of its significance at the time!
The GROW Model Sir John Whitmore Performance Consultants

Sir John Whitmore was the first to publish the GROW Model in his book Coaching for Performance (1992) which rapidly become the coaching bible for managers and executive coaches alike, selling over a million copies in 23 languages. Through the book’s success, and our international workshops, GROW became known universally and is now acknowledged as the most popular coaching model globally.