When not to use GROW

I have noticed that when people first to learn the GROW model they sometimes become a bit evangelical and assume that it can be used in all circumstances and situations.

While GROW is probably the best known coaching model in the world today, and does have a multitude of uses there are circumstances where I would recommend that it is not used. These are:

1) When there is not sufficient trust between the coach and client. If for instance the coach is also the client’s boss and the client believes that if he or she admits to a fault then it will be used against them. Or if the client believes the content of the coaching will be reported negatively to their boss. In these cases, coaching using GROW, or any other method, will go nowhere. If you notice that a coaching session seems to be going round in circles this is often the cause because it appears that the client is cooperating but there is an underlying agenda.

What should the coach do – stop the coaching session and address the real issue with the client honestly. If this is done genuinely then it is possible to get the coaching back on track. But it requires a high degree of honesty and authenticity from the coach and client. Alternatively have the client see another coach if possible.

2) If the client is incapable of self reflecting and analysing how they might be contributing to the situation or if the client is very determined to blame others for the situation.

What should the coach do – again stopping trying to do GROW and addressing what you see happening is the best way forward here. You need to be able to do it in a way where the client does not feel blamed themselves though. This can be tough if you have been going round in circles for a bit. Another option is to use humour and exaggeration. E.g. “So you are saying your boss has such control over you there is nothing you can do to influence him/her?” But you must be confident that you can hit the right tone and not dip into sarcasm.

3) When the client is in a very fragile emotional state and needs strong emotional support rather than the coaching type support provided by GROW

What should the coach do – the answer is fairly self evident. The coach should refer the client on to a trusted therapist and not try and coach the client when they need something else.

4) Where the client is tackling a problem that they have attempted many times before and failed. The reasons for this are that the client is sometimes so frustrated with the experience they are no longer capable of analysing what is happening with GROW and they need some other kind of support. I came across this quite a few times when I was coaching individuals who wished to lose weight.

What should the coach do – if you sense the client’s frustration stop trying to use GROW and give them the opportunity to talk honestly about how they feel about the issue. Sometimes clearing the feelings allows the client to let go of the past and look at the issue afresh