GROW model: Learn to tackle all types of problems effectively

GROW is a model for problem solving and goal achievement. The initials stand for the five stages of GROW, which are: Goal, Reality, Obstacles, Options and Way Forward. (GROOW would be more accurate but it doesn’t work as a name!)

Watch a video about the GROW model

The history of GROW

  • World’s best know coaching model
  • Developed in 1980s
  • Based on asking questions and a facilitative approach
  • Used by thousands of companies and individuals
  • Works with many different kinds of problems
  • Partly derived from the Inner Game work of Tim Gallwey
  • Requires good interpersonal skills to use effectively.

Goal stage

  • This is where you define what the client wants to achieve.
  • The goal should be in a SMART format: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time specific.
  • It should be stretching but not unachievable. If it is, break it down into sub goals.
  • The goal should be something the client really wants rather than a ‘should’.
  • The key for the coach is to ask Can I imagine the client achieving their goal as if I was watching it on a film? If you can’t the goal is not clear.
  • Watch out for words like ‘better’, ‘less’ or ‘improved’. If the goal contains words like these it is not clear.

Reality stage

  • This is where you define where the client is currently in relation to their goal.
  • The reality stage is nothing to do with the goal being realistic. It is just where the client is now.
  • The reality statement should be clear as to where the client is in relation to their goal.
  • It should be as factual as possible. For example, if the client wants to earn £50k per year the reality is what they earn now.
  • Do not include opinions and beliefs.
  • As with the goal the coach should be able to see it as if watching it on a film.
  • You can include skills, knowledge and resources that the client has available in reaching their goal.
  • You can include the number of times the client has tried to achieve their goal before but watch out for getting into obstacles.


  • The point of the obstacles section is to clarify what is stopping the client(s) moving toward their goal. There must be some obstacles or the client would achieve the goal by themselves.
  • Coach and client should really understand how a particular obstacle is stopping the client make progress.
  • Obstacles can be caused by other people, they can be internal to the client or they can be caused by a lack of resources – time, money, skills, information or support.
  • Make sure you list each obstacle separately.
  • Watch out for justifications as against real obstacles. For example, I am too old is a justification. The coach needs to get to the real obstacle – for example, I am very afraid of being rejected.


  • Once the obstacles are clear it should be easier to create some ways around them.
  • The coach can use questions starting with suppose… or if… to sidestep the censorship of the rational mind and unleash more creative ideas.
  • It is important to take the obstacles one at a time.
  • There could be a temporary solution which could work.
  • The client might need guiding into creating the resources they need.
  • Asking the client Who could help you with this obstacle will often produce options.

Way Forward or Actions

  • If the client is to progress there must be some agreed actions which will move him/her towards their goal.
  • Take each of the options in turn and create actions out of them.
  • The client should be able to complete actions in one to four weeks. If it is longer term try and break it down.
  • Check what support the client needs. Offer your own support if you wish.
  • Check the client has thought through the consequences of their actions so there are no nasty surprises.
  • Agree the action list with the client with each action in a SMART format.