Wednesday 2 February 2011

GROWing pains...

According to the Coaching Academy: 'The GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) model is the most common and widely used coaching tool. It empowers the coach to structure a coaching conversation and deliver a meaningful result.'

I have a number of questions concerning it, at least as presented here and generally used and taught.

At one level it seems so obvious and helpful, but I think it implies a lot of things that are not helpful.

Consider, for example, the statement: It empowers the coach to structure a coaching conversation and deliver a meaningful result.

Is that necessarily a good thing? It implies:

a) that it is good for the coach to be empowered

b) that it is good for the coach to structure a coaching conversation

c) that the coach takes responsibility for delivering a meaningful result.

All of these, I think, are open to question.

And one good question is, what is it that we think we are doing when we are coaching?

And then the model itself:

Goal: how straightforward is that? It is all to easy to invite the person with whom one is working to 'set clear (achievable/relevant/challenging etc) goals'. But in my experience, people need time and space to discern what is truly important to them in the future, and it may not even fit the shape of a 'goal', or the very language of 'goals' may limit their thinking. From Peter Block, I have learned that the presenting problem is rarely the real problem (though that language also has implications one might wish to query.) And there is the whole question of being or doing....

Reality: this is another question-begging word. Given the multiple subjectivities of our experience, inviting people to articulate or even explore 'reality' may be less helpful than it sounds.

Options: I believe in these, I really do! But sometimes they are best generated as a by-product, almost, of other processes, not least profound listening, curious exploration, fantasising about the (seemingly) impossible, surfacing of deep values, and so on. Maybe it is the context that makes it sound so clinical and sterile, but something about the sequence Goal, reality, options... just does not resonate, neither with my philosophy of coaching nor my experience of what people with whom I work find helpful.

Will: again I understand what they are getting at, and maybe have fewer concerns about this word than the others - except it is the last word, and that I do find problematic. There is so much more that a rich coaching conversation could explore than is, seemingly, allowed by these four words.

Having said all of which, GROW may be useful as a primer for the busy work-based coach (say a supervisor) just wanting to break the habit of telling people how to do it... But as 'the most widely-used coaching tool' (and that word too is loaded!) I do have real concerns about it.

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