goals, realtiy, options and will

GROWing positive workplace conversations

This paper was initially written as a resource for a group of line managers I was working with. The aim was to foster a coaching culture by enabling them to adopt a coaching style with their team members, peers, senior colleagues and clients.

The feedback from this work was highly positive and the outcomes for the organisation were achieved.

Whatever our role, conversations are fundamental to how we achieve positive results. For line managers, workplace conversations can aid developing performance; with clients (both internal and external) focused conversations can bring great mutual benefit.

I was recently reminded of the usefulness of the GROW model in stimulating focused conversations. The GROW model is particularly well known as an approach to coaching; it can also add value to other important conversations. So, here is a brief overview of the model and how it can be used.

Goal, reality, options and way forward

Workplace Conversations

GROW is an easy to remember acronym for:

Goal – the goal of the conversation, clearly exploring the issue to be resolved;

Reality – the reality of the problem or issue under discussion, what is happening?

Options – the choices available which may resolve the issue;

Way forward/Will – the next steps and the will, desire and energy to address the issue.

Goal: it starts by aiming to identify the issues, areas of concern or problem that are the focus of the conversation. Questions asked must aim to clarify the objective and outcomes that are really important.

Reality: once goals are agreed then the conversation can move on to what is happening now, exploring the true nature of the problem or issue. The aim is to increase shared understanding of the issue and to deepen the awareness of what is really going on. Probing questions encourage depth of exploring the issue; it may also be worth discussing what has been tried so far, the results of these actions and what has been learned.

Options: having gained a clear understanding of the issue, then it is time to move on to consider the options, to explore what can be done about the situation. Here questions to re-frame how you are thinking about the issue and to generate some creative ideas for addressing it differently are valuable. New perspectives and ‘off-the-wall’ thinking may be needed!

Way forward/ Will – commitment to change? The important thing here is to focus on a course of action and to consider the practicalities for taking this forward.

GROW in coaching conversations

As highlighted at the start, the GROW model is most often associated with coaching conversations. It can offer line managers a clear process for having coaching conversations with team members, thus encouraging greater engagement and enhancing development and learning. The great value of a coaching conversation is that it can encourage the team member to develop their own ideas, thus taking ownership of the issue. The line manager can take the opportunity to focus on encouraging the team member to think the issue through, rather than offering solutions.

Let’s take a look at how each stage may apply in a coaching conversation:

GOAL.  As line manager, the aim is to help the person identify the goal they wish to achieve – what is their issue? Focus on supporting the other person so they genuinely see this as their own coaching session. It is not for you to tell them what issues or problems they should be working on. If you have views it would be best to share and discuss these in advance of the session. This is where you may refer to the overall structure of coaching and to establishing the initial contract; if you identify some issues you wish to raise at a later stage, then it may be appropriate to discuss this between sessions or as part of the re-contracting at the outset of each session.

REALITY.  As line manager, it is important that you encourage the person to create their own understanding of the issue. However, it may be helpful to offer contextual information to add to their picture. It is generally appropriate to do this before inviting the person to summarise their understanding and also to have an agreement (made at the start) that you can offer comments and views where appropriate, and with their agreement. At this stage you are encouraging the depth of thinking about the issue – ensueing the person has all the relevant information, has considered it from different perspectives and has reviewed any approaches already tried.

OPTIONS.  As with the stage above, it is important to focus on asking questions and offering hypotheses, thus enabling the person to develop options to which they are committed. However, you may seek their agreement to proffer ideas and suggestions; again this is best done usually towards the end of this part of the conversation.

WAY FORWARD. As line manager, it is important to allow the person to take forward their course of action and not to end up telling them what you want them to do! However, as line manager there is great potential here for ensuring that the chosen option is relatively feasible, although a few mistakes along the way may stimulate some great learning – it’s about risk-taking. Equally, the line manager can be in a good position to offer on-going support and encouragement.

Throughout this process the quality of questioning is the vital key that will deliver quality coaching that is both highly valued and has a positive impact. Below are a few questions for each stage of the GROW model; these are offered as illustrations and not to be followed slavishly, the most important aspect of effective coaching conversation is to develop your own style that is congruent with your values and that feels natural for both you and your team members.

GROW model – useful questions


What do you want to achieve?

What is the issue?

What are your long term aspirations?

What do you want to feel? What is the desired outcome from this session? What would you need to happen for you to walk away feeling that this time was well spent?

If I could grant you one wish for this session, what would it be?

What you would like to be different when you leave this session?

What is it you would like to discuss?

How will that be of real value to you?


What is happening now?

How do you know that this is accurate?

When does this happen?

Describe and be as precise as possible.

What effect does this have (on you/ on others involved/ on the results)?

How have you verified that this is so? How could you verify it?

What other factors are relevant?

Who else is relevant?

What is their perception of this situation?

What have you tried so far? With what results?


What choices do you have? What could you do?

What else could you do?

What could you do differently?

What one thing would change this situation?

What could you do that no one would expect you to do?

What approaches have you taken in similar circumstances?

Tell me about possibilities you have dreamed of.

Who might be able to help you?

Which options do you like most?

What are the benefits and pitfalls of these options?


What is the preferred option?

What is the most appropriate way forward?

On a scale of 1 – 10, how committed are you to this option?

What challenges may you face?

How can you overcome them?

What is the plan?

How committed are you?

What are your first steps/ the next steps?

What support do you need?

How will you enlist this support?


Hope this helps you consider how you can work positively with this model to improve team and individual performance.

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