Coaching is the best way to develop the people around you. And the best-known approach is the GROW Model. It’s perfect for beginner coaches and will continue to serve you for many years. So, here’s how to coach with the GROW model.
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Coaching is one of the best ways a leader or Project Manager can develop the people around you. That is without a doubt. But from my own experience – both coaching and being coached – I would go further. I would say that Coaching is the best way a leader or Project Manager can develop the people around you.
At the heart of coaching:
The first task of a coach is to help evoke awareness of all of the relevant facts around the issue that the person you’re coaching is grappling with. Often, when we are faced with a problem, especially an urgent one, we dive in, and focus on only the most obvious information.
The coach’s role is to help us to see the wood for the trees: to not get distracted by the obvious stuff, without considering other details. It’s about:
The presumption built into coaching is simple…
the more precise and accurate our awareness is, the better is our ability to select the best choices
The second key aspect of coaching is to help the learner to take responsibility for their choices. This means:
You won’t be surprised to know that there is a wide range of different models and processes to help us to coach. Each one guides us through a coaching conversation. They set out steps to follow and usually offer a memorable acronym.
The most widely used model was developed by Grahame Alexander. It is described in great detail and with terrific simplicity and impact, in ‘Coaching for Performance’ by Sir John Whitmore.
It is the GROW model. GROW is an acronym. Indeed, the full acronym is GROW ME:
The coach helps their coachee articulate a realistic goal. This ensures the person who is being coached is absolutely clear about what they are and are not setting out to do. It is about awareness, and also setting them up to take responsibility.
Questions you’ll ask at this stage include:
If the goal setting is about understanding the end-point, the next part of your conversation explores where they are starting from. Your questioning should help the learner to inventory:
As a project manager, we’re still in the ‘Definition’ stage! And part of our exploration is taking in stakeholders and risks.
One of the things I learned early on as a coach, is to allow plenty of time for the Reality stage of the conversation. Often your coachee’s problem seems to resolve itself spontaneously, as they better understand the reality of the situation. There can often come an ‘aha’ moment, when they link an unexpected aspect of reality with their goal – now more clearly understood than it was before.
But, even if you don’t get that kind of magical breakthrough, time spent on reality is a good investment. It forms the foundations of the next steps.
Next, you turn your coachee’s attention towards what they can do to achieve their goal.
Think of the goal as the destination and reality sets out the starting point. In the Options part of your conversation, you are helping set out as many possible routes they can take. The more options they find; the more choices they have. And, the more choices; the better the chance that they will have an option (or combination of options) that will get them to their goal quickly and safely.
The most important single question you can ask at this stage is:
What else could you do?’
When you are satisfied there are no more ideas, it’s time to help them to evaluate the options.
First, I like to help my coachee define what criteria they want to measure their options against. What’s important? It may be:
As a coach, it doesn’t matter to you what their priorities are. What matters is that they fully accept those priorities and are prepared to take responsibility against them. Once they have their evaluation criteria. Help them to test each option against them. Here again, the concepts of awareness and reality are valuable. Don’t let them get away with a shallow analysis. Push them hard to validate their evaluation with real data and experience.
The outcome of this stage of your conversation will be a preferred course of action – one or more options in combination that the coachee believes will best serve them.
This is where the coaching conversation is going to get tough…
The final stage in the initial conversation is to secure that responsibility.
What will you do?’
It’s more than just getting them to make a commitment too. It’s also about testing that commitment, and ensuring they have the resources to meet it.
Help your coachee to make plans and test them out. Then, at the end, ask a question like:
On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to doing this?’
If the answer isn’t a 9m or a 10, you need to explore what’s getting in the way, and help them move it to a 9 or 10. Often a low score suggests a deep reservation about the selected option. This will suggest that there is a criterion that is important to the coachee that you did not surface. You need to cycle your conversation back to the Options stage. Maybe even to the reality stage, if you suspect there is a material fact that has gone with you both acknowledging it.
Many coaches forget the last part of the GROW Model. It’s your responsibility to follow up with your learned, to monitor their progress, and help them t evaluate where they are and whether they need to check reality and find some new options.
For project managers, coaching is rarely a one-off conversation. Rather, it’s a part of a long-term commitment to developing the people you lead.
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I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own.
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Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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