Tim O'Rahilly Life Coaching

Archive for April 2011

Coaching: The GROW Model

I am frequently asked about what form my coaching takes. My usual response is to ask more questions, as there are so many different factors involved in the coaching process. These will be influenced by the individual, their circumstances and the type of coaching they are looking for. That said, whether I am coaching one-to-one or in group/workshop sessions I will usually follow the GROW Model, or some variation of it.

GROW is an acronym for Goals, Reality, Options and Way forward (or Will). The model was first used by Graham Alexander in the late 1980’s before being refined and made more widely known by Sir John Whitmore in his 1992 book Coaching For Performance. This model provides a structured framework which helps to set powerful goals and also enables an effective problem solving conversation.

Once a coaching topic has been agreed upon by coach and client, the most important first step in the process will be the setting of end goals. Clear, clean and powerful goals need to be in place for the coaching process, and also for each individual session along the way. I have discussed goal setting in more detail in a previous blog post, but they should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time-framed.

The Reality stage is the ‘now’ in the process. How far away are you from the end goal, and how far have you already moved towards it? At this point it is essential that time is taken to better clarify the goals and engage with them.

At the Options stage, we do not attempt to resolve the topic immediately. Rather, we come up with as many options as possible. These options should be in the form of action steps towards the goal. This can take time and needs to take into account another ‘O’, namely Obstacles. Is is not unusual at this point to revisit ‘Reality’ or even ‘Goals’ again. At this stage the coach will ask many questions to aid the client’s thinking. Things to consider might include:


  1. What knowledge or resources do you already have?
  2. Where can you get additional knowledge or resources?
  3. Can the obstacles in your way be minimised?
  4. Have you dealt with any similar obstacles in the past?
  5. How might someone who could deal effectively with such an obstacle go about it?

At the end of this stage there should be one or more agreed options to take on to the Way forward.

At the final stage, goals will be firm. The’ reality’ stage will have defined a need and we will have chosen options to put into action movings towards achieving the goal. Along the way it is the coach’s task to help the coachee recognise WHAT they are going to do and WHEN they are going to do it. We will consider HOW these actions will get the coachee closer to their goals and WHICH obstacles need to be overcome. It is also important to establish WHO they can ask to help with the journey.

Any internet search will produce other coaching models and even other variations of the GROW model. I have a preference for this model because it is flexible around specific needs. It also starts with a rigorous goal-setting stage before committing to clear action steps for achieving those goals.

Managing Stress

This posting was edited, updated and reposted on 13th May 2015 as part of the Mindful May series.