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The GROW Model in Coaching is Misunderstood

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May 13, 2024
CEO, Founder & Executive Coach
4 minute read
The GROW model in coaching isn't a linear checklist; it's dynamic. Starting with reality, not goals, fosters effective conversations.

The GROW Model in Coaching is Misunderstood

The GROW model, a popular framework in the coaching industry, needs to be more understood and applied. This simple acronym – standing for Goal, Reality, Options, and Way Forward – is frequently interpreted as a linear process to be followed in coaching conversations. However, this interpretation misses the essence of the GROW model and can lead to ineffective coaching practices.

The Misconception of Linearity

One of the most common misconceptions about the GROW model is that it is a rigid, step-by-step process. Many coaches, particularly those new to the field, approach GROW as a checklist. They start by discussing the Goal, then move on to explore the client's current Reality, generate Options, and finally, decide on the Way Forward or the commitment to action. This approach, while structured, can limit the fluidity and responsiveness essential in coaching conversations.

The Primacy of Goals – A Misguided Focus

Another misunderstanding stems from the emphasis placed on the 'Goal' aspect of the model. It is easy to assume that since 'Goal' is the first element in the acronym, it should be the starting point of every coaching session. However, this is not usually the case, nor is it the most effective approach. Many clients come into coaching sessions with a vague sense of what they want to achieve. In such cases, diving straight into goal setting can be premature and unproductive.

Reality as the Starting Point

In practice, a more effective use of the GROW model often involves starting with the 'Reality' component. This approach involves exploring the client's current situation, challenges, and experiences. By delving into the client's reality, a coach can gather a wealth of data and insights. This information is crucial in helping clients clarify their situation and informing the goal-setting process.

The Role of the Coach in Processing Data

The exploration of the client's reality often results in the coach being presented with a vast amount of data. This can include facts about the client's situation, emotional responses, beliefs, and assumptions. It is the coach's responsibility to help the client process this information. This process is not about providing solutions or advice. Instead, it involves helping clients reflect, gain insights, and see their situation from a different perspective.

Clarifying Goals Through Exploration

Once the reality has been thoroughly explored, the process of clarifying goals becomes more meaningful. Clients often find that their initial goals evolve or change as they gain a deeper understanding of their situation. This is a natural and valuable aspect of the coaching process. Goals that emerge from thoroughly exploring reality often align more with the client's true desires and values.

Options and Will: Flexible and Client-Centric

The 'Options' and 'Way Forward' components of the GROW model also need to be approached flexibly. Coaches should facilitate the exploration of options in a way that empowers the client to consider various possibilities without feeling directed or limited. Similarly, when it comes to the 'Way Forward,' the commitment to action should come from the client. The coach's role is to support the client in identifying actionable steps that are realistic, timebound and motivating.

The Dynamic Nature of GROW

Understanding the GROW model as a dynamic framework rather than a linear process is crucial. The elements of the model are not steps to be checked off but areas to be explored in a manner that best serves the client. A coaching conversation may move back and forth between these elements as the client gains new insights and clarity.


In conclusion, the GROW model is a powerful tool in coaching, but it must be understood and applied with flexibility and responsiveness. It is not a linear process but a framework that structures the conversation and guides exploring a client's world.

Starting with reality rather than goals often leads to more effective coaching conversations. The coach's role is to facilitate this exploration, helping the client process the information and clarify their situation and goals.

By embracing the dynamic nature of the GROW model, coaches can more effectively support their clients in achieving meaningful and sustainable change.