Coaching Session Using the GROW Model

This study looks to conduct a coaching session with one individual. In order to do this effectively, a range of coaching techniques will be drawn upon using empirical research. As this study cannot cover all areas of coaching research, we will only focus on areas that will directly influence the implementation of the coaching session and therefore topics have been carefully chosen to suit the GROW model and the coaching relationship. Once a good base of literature is collected, the paper will then apply these guidelines to develop an evidence-based framework to implement. In order to assess the success of this framework, a self-reflection log and client feedback will be documented to evaluate the impact of the session on a more personal level. A discussion will also be formed to critical assess the data collected. This will help to understand any implications and improvements for future practice.

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GROW is arguably the most well-known approach used in coaching (Palmer & Whybrow, 2007; 2009; Palmer, 2011; Grant, 2011). Although the GROW model has been around since the early 1990s (Whitmore, 1992), it has only been empirically measured over the last decade (Alexander & Renshaw, 2005). It is a behavioural model that focuses on external behaviour and how it is adapted. The coaching relationship is one that is similar to Socrates and Plato, where the coach uses open-ended questions to help move the coachee through each of the four steps. By moving through these four steps the coachee enhances their performance and moves closer towards achieving their self-chosen goal. These four interrelated steps are: Goals; Reality; Options; and Way Forward. The definitions of these can be found in table 1. Goal setting is seen as the start of a “GROW journey” which then moves into reality which helps the coach gain understanding of where they are currently (Grant, 2011).

 GROW description table with example questions. Sourced: Grant & Greene, 2004; Whitmore, 1992.

Although research suggests that having a basic structure like GROW in place is effective, many would argue that GROW alone is incomplete. McKenna and Davis (2009) developed four ‘active ingredients’ that directly affect the success of the coaching outcome. These include:

  1. Client factors (40%)
  2. The relationship (30%)
  3. Placebo or hope (15%)
  4. Theory and technique (15%)

These percentages suggest that the success of coaching largely due to the coachee’s own processes and the coach’s ability to develop and maintain a robust coaching relationship. It further argues that applying GROW to the session will only contribute a small part to the coaching outcome. Therefore, a primary focus on building the relationship as the coach cannot control intrinsic factors of the coachee. Since these findings, more research has been published to argue the importance of the relationship (De Haan, 2011; 2013) and linking it to outcomes (Ianiro et al., 2012). Passmore (2007) suggests that a coach needs to invest more into the relationship when the group of participants is smaller. Passmore (2007) further states that the relationship is most fragile at the beginning because this is when coachees are unsure whether they trust or like their coach. A relationship built on trust and respect is not a new concept to psychology. To build a relationship effectively, Rogers (1957), a humanistic writer, suggested that a successful therapeutic relationship relies on a series of factors.

Firstly, the coach needs to hold a positive self-image. This implies that coaches with high self-esteem construct stronger relationships. This may reflect “I’m ok” from the Transactional Analysis model (TA). Secondly, the coach must believe that the coachee is able to find the answers to their own problems. This may reflect the “you’re ok” in TA. Passmore (2007) adds that a coachee’s self-esteem rises when they feel that their coach believes in their ability. Thirdly, the coach must be able to empathise with the coachee throughout their relationship. Fourthly, the coach needs to act with integrity in the relationship. Lastly, the coach must work with the sole objective of meeting the needs of the coachee.

Rodgers (1957) meta-research findings were written over 70 years ago, but still have an impact on recent theory and practice (Passmore, 2007). More recently, Passmore (2007) also added that the coach must be non-judgemental of the coachee for the coaching relationship to be successful. These findings are potentially a good framework for developing the coaching relationship, however are not sufficient to maintain it. Passmore (2006) published a study looking at whether executives value the outcome of coaching. They found that a coaching relationship is not solely based on trust and respect. The coach must be able to create an environment that optimises achieving goals. In order to do this effectively, the coach must be able to firstly monitor their own behaviours and feelings. Secondly, monitor the behaviours and feelings of the coachee and the coach needs to manage his or her emotions. Lastly, adapt behaviours appropriately to maintain both professional detachment and empathetic support. These are all key components of emotional intelligence (EI) which have been linked to forming and maintaining effective relationships (Stein & Book, 2000).

If a highly effective coach is one that uses transference and countertransference effectively (able to transfer or redirect feelings from one to another), then a coach needs to be aware of the dangers of an unbalanced power dynamic forming (Pezet, 2007). Instead, a successful power dynamic that surrounds the relationship must have the best interests of the coachee at heart. Otherwise, the coach may be seen as a “superhero or supervillian” neither of which fit into the “I’m ok, you’re ok” approach mentioned earlier. An approach to reduce the likelihood of an unbalanced power dynamic forming is to set all expectations at the start of the relationship. This allows the coachee and the coach to know what to expect from the relationship.

There are also guidelines available for coaces which are provided by their chosen professional association. There is a range of coaching associations available. Popular associations include International Coaching Federation (ICF), Association for Coaching (AC) and the British Psychological Society Special Group of Coaching Psychology (SGCP). The ICF and AC are popular associations within the industry, but they do not align with the practice of SP. SGCP are one of the few associations where SP as a primary focus. As a result, this report abides to the SGCP ethical regulations, as the practice of SP is essential when working as an Organisational Psychologist. Please see appendix C for a clear understanding of all the SCGP guidelines considerations needed when designing and implementing a coaching session.

In order to create an effective coaching session, a coach must firstly set expectations with the coachee to reduce any conflict or power dynamic forming. The coach must further create a relationship based on trust and respect. This can be achieved by adopting an EI approach to coaching, as well as being high in self-efficacy and able to put any agenda they have aside. Lastly, in order to be an effective coach psychologist, one should follow the ethical guidelines of SGCP.


Participant- 93

The participant involved in this study has been recruited online from a Social Media advert posted on a social media site. In order to achieve a coaching relationship with no power dynamic, the participant is an individual that is not close to me. However, as I am not insured nor am I officially signed to SGCP, the client I have chosen is someone that is in my network. I have chosen these specifics as this participant is the safest option and still allows enough distance to prevent any pre-determined dynamic effecting the session.

Establishing the Coaching Relationship- 243

In order to set expectations effectively, a welcome pack (appendix C) and a coaching contract (appendix D) was generated explaining what coaching is and asked the coachee a few questions about their:

  1. Expectations of the coaching process
  2. Expectations of the coach
  3. Expectations of the coachee
  4. Experience of therapeutic relationships (what they found to be a good/poor approach)
  5. How they would like to be treated within the coaching relationship if challenged

A coaching contract is also a part of the welcome pack. The contract further sets expectations of the coaching relationship, e.g. logistics of the coaching session and set expectations of coaching and the coachee. Both the contract and the welcome pack state clearly that an SGCP ethics guideline sheet will be provided if requested. It should be noted that, the contract will state that all details about the coachee will be kept anonymous.

Once these questions have been answered, a follow-up phone call will be arranged with the client. This helps to cement expectations by both parties answering any questions. We will then arrange a time and date for a session that is suitable for both parties.

For my own record keeping, I will also keep a confidential record online of the coachee’s details and create a spreadsheet log of my coaching (Appendix D)

Conducting the Coaching Session- 139

The session will be conducted in a meeting room in City University Library. This location is neutral to both parties to keep the power dynamic balanced and the session undisturbed. Both parties will have their phones switched off to ensure no interruptions. I will further arrange the chairs so that they are sitting next to one another is a less intimidating stance for both parties (STUDY). The coach and coachee will be provided with a pen and paper for note taking. As a means of gauging the success of the session, the client will fill in a short Likert scale questionnaire before and after the session (See appendix E).

 Diagram 1: Seating positions of coach and coachee

In the 60-minute session, the coach will follow the GROW model (see Diagram 2) using the framework set in table 1. The session will commence with a tighter structure at the beginning, but the structure of the session will become less tight as the session moves in ‘R’ and ‘O’. However, once heading into ‘W’, the session will become tighter again. Allowing flexibility in ‘R’ and ‘O’ gives the client creative freedom to explore their situation and their options. Please see Diagram 3 for a clear understanding.


 Diagram 3: Dimensions of Session Structure

Once the session is complete, the client will be advised to email a week later with any homework and feedback from the session. This aims to give the client accountability and give leverage their self-chosen goal. A final questionnaire will be sent to the coachee to see whether their motivation has fluctuated from the previous.

Follow-up from client 480

“Coaching was an overall good experience. I particularly liked being given permission to speak about my passion! I also enjoyed breaking things down into small manageable goals- smaller than I usually would. I further enjoyed indentifying where motivations like, or is enjoyable about work. The questions were sometime difficult but they were thought-provoking and forced me to consider things from a different perspective. However, a little more input would have been helpful. I realise the point is for you to get me thinking, but possibly some suggestions of your own, or things that other people have tried might help when I’m stuck on finding an answer for something. I am happy with the general dynamic. I think the style of a semi-structured conversation works well, it let us explore things as they came up but also felt like there was a clear process. As a person I think you’re very approachable and friendly but you keep a strong focus at the same time so that works well.”

Self-Reflection- 308

I have written a self-reflection report to clear my thoughts on the session and improve my self-awareness and skill set. In this session, the client initially came into the session with a long-term goal and so most of the session was spent breaking it down. I did my best to help the client find their tangible first step that they can achieve in the short term and provided the coachee with homework to research and evaluate different options. However, I felt that more work could have been done to add value to the goal. For instance, I could have spoken about the benefits and consequences of achievement more. I could have also done more work on drawing out client’s strengths and highlighting previous success strategies. This would build on their ‘can-do’ attitude, which could increase the quality of actions they may generate in their homework and make it much more likely to leave with a specific idea of what resources to research when completing their homework.

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Nonetheless, I feel that I was able to challenge my coachee and was unafraid to question their commitment to action, their motivation and the possible consequences of inaction. Additionally, I feel that I was able to active listen without having the urge to interrupt or give advice, with only the urge to interrupt once to provide a suggestion. I tackled this by asking the client’s permission to give the suggestion and provided two other options alongside it. I did not so that the choice of action was still in their hands. Lastly, I made sure to paraphrase and summarise using the client’s words (i.e. habit, energy, focus) at every milestone in the session. I did this by writing down key words being said by the coachee. This helps both the coachee and I gain understanding and reflection on what was previously said.



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