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Coaching Process Models

November 2, 2012 by Dr. Jon Warner in Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching Process Models

Although there are a number of different ideas about how coaches should ask questions, essentially there are five main coaching questioning methods or approaches which you should consider when you are about to coach someone. Each of the five has a different application depending on why the coaching is taking place. However, you might well use all the methods over the course of one coaching session. The five coaching question-asking methods are:

  1. role modelling (demonstrating and showing) “Can you do it like this?”
  2. instructing (telling or lecturing) “Can you get me 20% more effort?”
  3. performance/target setting (challenging or stretching) “Can you achieve your personal best?”
  4. critical thinking/creative problem solving (joint issue identification and resolution) “Can you identify another solution to get from A to B?”
  5. enthusiastic motivation/inspiration (strong encouragement and support) “Can you feel your momentum building here?”

Although these approaches are all relatively self-explanatory, they are relatively one-dimensional and need quite a bit of practice, and coaches may like to follow a more integrated system or process. Another way in which coaching can be offered to individuals is therefore to adopt a specific “step-wise” coaching methodology or approach. There are many well-regarded and highly proven sequential coaching methodologies that can be applied.

The GROW Model

The GROW Model is one of the best known and widely used coaching models. It provides a simple yet often powerful framework for navigating a route through any coaching session (formal or informal) that you may find yourself in, as well as providing a means of finding your way when lost.

The GROW approach is described in a number of coaching books, including John Whitmore’s very useful book “Performance Coaching”. GROW is an acronym for Goal, current Reality, Options and Will – which are seen as the four key elements of a coaching session.

Firstly, a session must have a Goal or outcome to be achieved. The goal should be as specific as possible and it must be possible to measure whether it has been achieved. So, having identified the goal, questions like “How will you know that you have achieved that goal?” are useful here.

As well as knowing where you are trying to get to, you need to know where you are starting from – the Current Reality. It is surprising how often this is the key part of a coaching session and that by just seeing clearly the situation (rather than what was thought or imagined to be the situation), the resolution becomes obvious and straightforward.

Once you know where you are and where you want to go, the next step is to explore what Options you have for getting there. A useful metaphor for GROW is a map: once you know where you are going (the goal) and where you are (current reality), you can explore possible Options in making the journey (options) and choose the best of these.

But this in itself is not enough – you must also have the motivation or Will to make the journey. The “W” is often taken to stand for a number of other elements of a session, all of which are important. Myles Downey in his book “Effective Coaching” suggests it stands for “Wrap-up”; others have it standing for What, Where, Why, When and How. But whatever is emphasized, the desired outcome from this stage is a commitment to action.

In summary, the grow model can be summarized as follows:

G.R.O.W. Model in summary 
G = What is your goal? What do you want to accomplish? What are you trying to do? How will you know when you have reached the result you want? 
R = What is the reality of the situation? What is really going on, as you see it? What’s happening now? How are things going today? Where do you find yourself at this time? 
O = What are your options? What alternatives do you have now? What are the possibilities that are in front of you? Which choices do you have at this time? 
W = What are you willing to do? What can you do now? How much are you likely to pursue the direction you’re targeting? What will it take to get moving towards your goal? 

Many people who have used the G.R.O.W. model very much like its simple four-step approach. However, for those people who prefer to cover more detailed ground when coaching the OUTCOMES™ model may be attractive.

The OUTCOMES™ Coaching model

The OUTCOMES™ Coaching model was developed by Allan Mackintosh to enable managers to undertake more structured coaching sessions with their employees than perhaps they have been used to. The increased structure is designed to provide more depth to their coaching and as such will enable an increase in understanding, motivation and commitment to action than they may have experienced with other coaching models such as G.R.O.W.

OUTCOMES™ provides more structure than G.R.O.W. simply by the fact that there are more distinct coaching stages that a manager or coach must adhere to.

So what are the stages behind OUTCOMES™?

O = Objectives. What is the employee attempting to achieve? This stage is similar to the G in G.R.O.W in that the manager will attempt to get an idea of what specifically the employee is trying to achieve.

U = Understand the Reasons. This is an important step as it is vital that the reasons behind wanting to achieve the objective are understood. More often than not employees either “under-stretch” or “over-stretch” their objectives. In sales, for example, one of the main “under stretches” is wanting to simply build rapport and fact-find within a sales call as opposed to actually selling anything on a first visit or phone call. By understanding the reasons behind the “rapport” objective, a manager can support and challenge a salesperson to achieve both the rapport and fact-finding objectives together with starting the selling process.

T = Take Stock of the Present Situation. It is important to spend time analyzing the reality of the present situation so that a manager can establish a baseline and then –

C = Clarify the Gap between where they are now and where they need to get to, in order to achieve their objective. Sometimes with G.R.O.W an inexperienced coach or manager can perhaps jump from Reality to Options without fully understanding the “gap” that has to be “crossed” or “filled”. They can go straight to the “how” without fully understanding the “what”.

O = Options Generation. Time needs to be taken here and not the first option taken. How many managers ask; “And if there was one other way you could do it, what would it be?” or “What would be the result if you did nothing?” The pros and cons of each option need to be discussed. This stage can take time and many managers “skip” through it, or worse, manipulate their employee with leading questions that enable the employee to come up with the options that the manager wants to hear! Take your time and allow the employee to generate his or her own options.

M = Motivate to Action. Once the options have been discussed and the best way forward agreed, the manager must check the motivation of the employee to move on the actions. Are they agreeing to actions because that is what they think the manager wants to hear or are they really motivated to move on the actions? The manager must have the ability to check this and challenge any signs of demotivation.

E = Enthusiasm & Encouragement – The manager must at all times show enthusiasm for the objectives ahead and encourage the employee to do as best they can.

S= Support. The manager must always show support for the employee in the tasks agreed and must also ask if there is any support that they have to put in, in order to assist the employee.

The last three stages are vital ones and ones which the inexperienced manager or coach may not go through when using G.R.O.W. They may have a “way forward” but many will not check the “will” and even more still will not contract any form of “support”.

The Coaching Skills Template Model

The Coaching Skills Template Model aims to give a coach two individual but complimentary frameworks to use all on one simple page (and use as a preparation sheet for each coaching intervention in which they engage). This template model is shown below.

Effective Coaching Skills Template

Around the edge of the template are six progressive coaching steps, starting with the “Recognize” step (with 3 summary statements under each). Let’s look at these in a little more detail:

Step Explanation
Recognize The ‘Recognize’ step asks the coach to take account of his or her own personal style. It also ask the coach to identify the right time and place to engage in a coaching intervention and to select the best opportunity so as to ensure that the quality of the discussion is as good as it can be.
Read The ‘Read’ step ask the coach to carefully read or assess the person they are planning to offer coaching or feedback and to look at both the context and general situation that exists in relation to the issues an challenges that are likely to be raised.
Receive The ‘Receive’ step asks the coach to maintain a high level of focus on the person being coached and to listen attentively at all times (watching for visual and verbal clues about behavior as well as taking account of any other feedback that might be available.
Re-frame The ‘Re-frame’ step (having listened to the other person) asks the coach to help the individual to re-frame any problem or issue that they may be having and to them identify ‘the gap’ that needs to be closed (between the present and future state. The approach to close this gap can then be agreed.
Record The ‘Record’ step asks the coach to help the individual he or she is coaching to set targets for improvement or change, establish milestones for the journey and fix timeframes in which the desired improvements or change should occur.
Review The ‘Review’ step asks the coach to work with the individual being coached to look back at his or her efforts to improve or change and assess the circumstances in which the change occurred, what he or she has experienced and what real progress has been made.

These six steps serve as a continual cycle or iterative loop for all coaches to remember as they plan to make any coaching intervention. The chart at the centre of the form overleaf then allows them to plan the intervention by thinking about two things:

A)   Is the coaching challenge future/new achievement oriented or about re-characterizing or thinking differently about the past?

B)   Is the coaching challenge about dealing with a problem to be solved or an opportunity to be realized?

By integrating these two continuums of Past-Future and Problem-Opportunity, we can write notes in one of four labeled spaces. As the chart shows, the labels for these spaces are therefore Acceptance (a missed opportunity in the past), Aspiration (an opportunity to be realized in the future), Closure (a past problem that needs to be put behind the person so that they can move on) and finally Planning (a current problem that needs a solution to it in the future).

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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One Comment

  1. Sujatha SureshAugust 27, 2016 at 2:25 am

    Great Post Dr.Warner.
    Congratulations! It is a pleasure to read thru your Website….

    We are in the field of Coaching CEOs, Senior & junior Executives, Entrepreneurs, Career Clarity seekers, Teaching staff and Students….
    The process is so similar, though you and i have never met… : )
    Blessed Coaching Days to you!
    Pravarra- Making a Positive Difference to People & Businesses

About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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