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Going beyond the GROW model

Going beyond the GROW model 

If you’re coaching, you’ve probably heard of the GROW model. In fact, it might’ve been the first model you learned and applied with clients. Created by John Whitmore, the GROW model is a great approach to work with for newer coaches because it’s easy-to-follow and effective! The GROW model gives coaches clear direction, making it easy to keep the coaching conversation on track and purposeful. 

When we’re working with clients that are new to coaching and want something structured, the GROW model is an appropriate choice. Similarly, if clients want to focus on their goals and are looking for an action-based approach, GROW is well-suited for the task. 

But despite its popularity and accessibility, the GROW model does have limitations. And it could easily be the wrong approach to use with some clients. 

How do you know when it’s time to move beyond the GROW model and adopt a different approach? What are the cons of using the GROW model?

Let’s explore… 


  1. It can stop you from seeing the whole picture 
    The GROW model focuses on goals and performance making it an excellent model to use for workplace and performance coaching. However, it doesn’t include the more philosophical or personal aspects of someone’s life. It doesn’t take into account a person’s life goals and the transitions they’re going through. Leaving these out can mean leaving out a significant part of what your client’s going through. 
  2. It can stop you from getting deeper with the client.
    Coaches can feel they need to take their clients through the steps, and may lose the chance to explore certain areas at a deeper level. For example, what a client says about their reality might indicate there’s more to explore. However, a coach may feel the need to move on to make time for the following step (options). 
  3. The approach can feel too transactional
    If you want to focus on creating deeper transformations, the GROW model may not help. This approach is more transactional and may require another approach to spark profound change.  
  4. GROW heavily focuses on behavioural change and actions to create change 
    Following on from the previous point, The GROW model doesn’t look at the unconscious part of the brain. It doesn’t look into feelings, deeply held beliefs and what’s happening for someone beneath the surface.  Without focusing on the unconscious and unravelling what’s happening there, it may be difficult to facilitate that lasting change clients seek 
  5. It’s easy to become too reliant on the model
    Focusing on a model and following the steps can make it difficult to stay present with the client. It can interfere with your ability to move naturally within the coaching conversation. 
    If you’re too reliant on the model, you may miss opportunities to bring in more powerful techniques. Instead, you’re thinking about the next step instead of being in the moment, seeing what comes up and finding an appropriate tool or question there and then. 

How can you add depth to the GROW model? 

You can: 

  1. Ask about your client’s feelings
    The GROW model tends to focus on actions and behaviours instead of feelings. To go deeper with clients, begin to ask about their feelings too. There’s no reason you can’t incorporate feelings with the GROW model. 
  2. Be present with your client 
    GROW gets coaches thinking about the next question – the next step. They’re usually trying to lead their client somewhere. Instead, be totally present with your client. Explore what’s going on for them emotionally. What’s happening at an energetic level? What’s going on in their bodies? Begin to look at your client as a whole person and listen to them fully. 
  3. Loosen the rigidity and mix in more tools
    If a client isn’t responding as well as you’d like to GROW, or you sense there’s more to explore and another tool would be useful, adapt how you use GROW. It’s OK for your work with GROW to be more fluid. 

Diving into other approaches…

We love the GROW model. But, we know clients require different tools and models. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach. That’s why we teach a variety of coaching approaches and techniques on our courses – so you can select the best approach for your client in the moment, to create a truly transformational session. 

The GROW model is a key module on our Professional Coaching Diploma If you want to give yourself the best start to coaching and build an unbreakable foundation, have a look at our Professional Coaching Diploma course here