The GROW Model is the most common coaching framework used by executive coaches. Given its relative simplicity, many managers have taught themselves the GROW model as a way to structure coaching and mentoring sessions with their employees. GROW is an acronym that stands for:
- Current Reality
- Will (or Way Forward)
Managers use the model to help their employees improve performance, solve problems, make better decisions, learn new skills, and reach their career goals.
The key to coaching and using the GROW model lies in asking great questions. Coaching isn’t telling the employee what to do—it’s helping the employee come up with their own answers by asking the right question at the right time.
The following are 70 coaching questions managers can utilize, categorized within the framework of the four-step GROW model.
Coaching starts with establishing a goal. It could be a performance goal, a development goal, a problem to solve, a decision to make, or a goal for the coaching session. For clarity of goal setting as well as consistency across your team, encourage your employees to use a S.M.A.R.T. goal format, where the letters stand for:
The following 10 questions can help people gain clarity about their goals:
- What do you want to achieve from this coaching session?
- What goal do you want to achieve?
- What would you like to happen with ______?
- What do you really want?
- What would you like to accomplish?
- What result are you trying to achieve?
- What outcome would be ideal?
- What do you want to change?
- Why are you hoping to achieve this goal?
- What would the benefits be if you achieved this goal?
This step in the GROW model helps you and the employee gain awareness of the current situation—what’s going on, the context, and the magnitude of the situation.
The key is to take it slow and easy with your questions. It’s not a rapid-fire interrogation. Let the employee think about the question and reflect on their answers. Use active listening skills, as this is not the time to jump to solution generation or share your own opinions.
The following 20 questions are designed to clarify the current reality:
- What is happening now (what, who, when, and how often)? What is the effect or result of this?
- Have you already taken any steps towards your goal?
- How would you describe what you did?
- Where are you now in relation to your goal?
- On a scale of one to 10, where are you?
- What has contributed to your success so far?
- What progress have you made so far?
- What is working well right now?
- What is required of you?
- Why haven't you reached that goal already?
- What do you think is stopping you?
- What do you think was really happening?
- Do you know other people who have achieved that goal?
- What did you learn from _____?
- What have you already tried?
- How could you turn this around this time?
- What could you do better this time?
- If you asked ____, what would they say about you?
- On a scale of one to 10, how severe/serious/urgent is the situation?
- If someone said/did that to you, what would you think/feel/do?
Once you both have a clear understanding of the situation, the coaching conversation turns to what the employee can do to reach their goal.
These 20 questions are designed to help the employee explore options and generate solutions:
- What are your options?
- What do you think you need to do next?
- What could be your first step?
- What do you think you need to do to get a better result (or closer to your goal)?
- What else could you do?
- Who else might be able to help?
- What would happen if you did nothing?
- What has worked for you already? How could you do more of that?
- What would happen if you did that?
- What is the hardest/most challenging part of that for you?
- What advice would you give to a friend about that?
- What would you gain/lose by doing/saying that?
- If someone did/said that to you what do you think would happen?
- What's the best/worst thing about that option?
- Which option do you feel ready to act on?
- How have you tacked this/a similar situation before?
- What could you do differently?
- Who do you know who has encountered a similar situation?
- If anything was possible, what would you do?
- What else?
Will (Or Way Forward)
This is the last step in the GROW model. In this step, the coach checks for commitment and helps the employee establish a clear action plan for next steps. Here are 20 questions to help probe for and achieve commitment:
- How are going to go about it?
- What do you think you need to do right now?
- Tell me how you’re going to do that.
- How will you know when you have done it?
- Is there anything else you can do?
- On a scale of one to 10, what is the likelihood of your plan succeeding?
- What would it take to make it a 10?
- What obstacles are getting in the way of success?
- What roadblocks do you expect or require planning?
- What resources can help you?
- Is there anything missing?
- What will one small step you take now?
- When are you going to start?
- How will you know you have been successful?
- What support do you need to get that done?
- What will happen (or, what is the cost) of you NOT doing this?
- What do you need from me/others to help you achieve this?
- What are three actions you can take that would make sense this week?
- On a scale of one to 10, how committed/motivated are you to doing it?
- What would it take to make it a 10?
Questions to Start a Conversation
A coaching conversation hardly ever follows a nice, neat, sequential four-step path. However, an arsenal of awesome questions within the GROW framework gives managers the confidence needed to get started. Eventually, it will become a natural, conversational flow, ebbing back and forth within the framework.