The GROW Model

“Mentoring and business coaching has been proven to improve performance, increase learning and enjoyment, and find a sense of purpose in work” – Sir John Whitmore.  The GROW Model was developed by Sir John and his colleagues Alan Fine and Graham Alexander, to provide a framework for structuring coaching and mentoring sessions.  It assists people identify the goals they hope to achieve and then helps them on the journey to achieving their goals, by asking and working through the right questions at the right time.

GROW stands for:

G – Goal

R – Current Reality

O – Options (or Obstacles)

W – Will (or Way Forward)

A good analogy for the GROW model is to think of it as helping plan a journey

Journey Analogy

Goal – When planning a journey you need to be clear on your destination and what you are hoping to experience along the way and when you get there.  You also need to know what will indicate that you have successfully got to where you wanted to go.

Current Reality – You then look at where you are at and what resources you have to get to where you want to go.

Options (or Obstacles) – You then investigate your options, review other people’s experience on similar journeys and map out how you are going to get there.

Will (or Way Forward) – You commit to the journey and recognise and allow the flexibility and adaptability you may need to have, to cope with the different and changing circumstances you may have to deal with on your travels.

The Role of the Mentor or Business Coach

Using the GROW Model a mentor helps the person establish S.M.A.R.T. goals and then uses good questioning and decision making processes (they ask don’t tell) to help the person make effective decisions on their journey to their goals.  They assist the person come to their own conclusions and active listening skills and semi-structured discussions are very important to effectively implementing the model.


“The GROW Model has the philosophy:  Ask don’t tell – Raise Awareness and Generate Responsibility”

The GROW Model

Is a four step process that the mentor guides the mentee to undertake to take responsibility and make their own choices on their journey .

“Product number one of coaching is – self responsibility” – Sir John Whitmore

“People skills – The quality of the people relationship that is developed, is very important to the success of the approach”

Step 1 – Help the mentee establish their goal

Help them develop a:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Realistic

T – Time-bound goal

Key questions that help in this step include:

  • What are you hoping to achieve and why?
  • How long will it take?
  • What’s the bigger context? – What will the achievement mean? What needs is it addressing? Your age, experience, business needs, children’s age, business stage etc
  • How does the goal fit with your other goals? – business, family, personal, etc.
  • How does it fit in with other stakeholders in your business and their goals?

Step 2 – Reviewing and reflecting on the current reality

  • What is the current situation?
  • What resources will be required?
  • What knowledge or skills will be required?
  • Have any actions already  been taken towards your goal?
  • Are all the stakeholders in the business onboard?
  • Are there any barriers at the moment?
  • Carry out a S.W.O.T. Analysis in respect to the goal.

Step 3 – Identify and consider the options

  • Brainstorm as many options as possible, blue sky the situation
  • If there were no limitations what would you consider doing?
  • What are the pros and cons of your options?
  • What would it take to put an option in place?
  • What do stakeholders in your business think about the options?
  • What barriers are there?
  • What time would it take to implement?
  • What are the priorities?
  • Are there any must dos?

Step 4 – Establish the will

  • What actions will you take by when?
  • Who else do you need to involve?
  • What will motivate you?
  • What achievements will you enjoy along the way?
  • How will you review your progress?

Throughout the process, active listening skills are critical.  For more information on active listening, click here.

Information Sources and Further Information

This informative video shows Sir John Whitmore presenting on the Spirit of Coaching:

Performance Coaching – The Business Co-Founded by Sir John Whitmore has a range of information on the GROW Model, please click here.

Mind Tools have an excellent article and videos on the GROW Model, please click here.

This is a great example of a successful mentoring in agriculture, please click here.

This article on Mentoring for Extension Professionals has a range of information and resources, please click here.