Oct 28 / Helen Bryant

How to Have a GROW Coaching Conversation - with Question Guide

Coaching is an essential skill set for any manager and leader. It's valuable as it engages your team and empowers them, but many managers don't use it often enough or don't feel that confident doing it.

Here I share with you the Grow Coaching Framework, which will help you navigate any coaching conversation. Plus, I give you example questions to help you get started quickly. 

Coaching conversations help people learn for themselves,  they can explore problems and opportunities at their own pace, in their way, which in turn helps them commit to their action plan, and as a consequence, they will learn faster.

Read the transcript here

As a manager, if you can master effective coaching you'll be so valued by your team, and you will also find out how empowering it is to empower others. 

Pursuit of 100% when 60% will do 
Getting people to learn for themselves to come up with their own ideas is valuable because it improves accountability. You may have the best idea in the world. It's a hundred per cent idea. You've got lots of expertise, you know your way of doing this task will work, and it is easy as a manager, especially if time-pressed, to tell people what you think they should do.

If you ask your team member and they come up with an idea, it does take longer, and that idea might be 60 or 70% of your idea, but importantly, it would work. Because that person has come up with their idea, they feel more ownership. What you will often find is they will 'go for it'. They can deliver that to 70, 80,  or even 100% of your original idea. I've often been surprised by what people have achieved when I've empowered them, embraced their idea and said, "that sounds like a great plan. Have a go and come back to me afterwards, and we'll review it." That's a lot about what coaching is about.

The challenge for managers 
The challenge I see when coaching and training managers are that they jump to giving that guidance too quickly. They spend too long trying to get their people to their own 100% idea and tell their team what we should think that they should do. I know you want to help your team, and you think you can help them get results faster, and you have all your expertise to help them. I get all that, but in not helping your team explore their challenges in their way, you can often miss what is truly holding them back or what the true nature of the challenge is for them.

Rewire your thinking by focusing on asking questions

To get to this valuable position with our team, we have to rewire our brains to stay asking great coaching questions and listening to what they say so we can guide the conversation for them and not for ourselves. And this is where GROW comes into it. It just gives us that structure to follow.
GROW stands for Goal, Reality, Options and Will.
  • Goal is to find out what the person wants to achieve. 
  • Reality is finding out where they are and the gap to achieving that goal.
  • Options help the person explore what they could do to get there. 
  • Will is the commitment step, and it defines what they will do. 

So your job in coaching is to ask questions and listen hard to what the person is saying so that you can guide the conversation and help them work through their personal challenge themselves.
TIP - Summarise to bridge each stage

At the end of each stage of GROW, an effective technique is to summarise what you have just heard and check you understood correctly before moving on.

It's powerful because if you summarise the important points, not everything the person said but the key points, it clarifies and confirms you understood and the other person feels heard. This helps improve the trust between you.

This is a powerful step and like acts like a bridge to the next stage and helps to keep the conversation on track. 

Step 1 GOAL

Goal is about bringing to life the outcome that the person wants.
You must have a mutual view of the topic and what good looks like for your team member. 

You can start with very open questions that allow the person to come up with a topic themselves. Or it might be that you've already identified a specific skill gap or situation between you that the person knows they need to develop in, for example, presenting or a specific skill that they need to do very well in their role. 

The key is for your team member to describe what "good" would be to achieve their goal. Help them when defining this goal is digging down a bit, finding out why it is important for them, and what they would feel like if they achieved this goal so that you get deeper into the person's motivation.

Importantly, help the person make their goal specific, especially if they say things like, "I'd like to get better at.." I find people say this often. It's just too vague. Help them bring that picture of success to life.  
Question Examples - Goal

What would you want to focus on?
What do you want to achieve in the next 12 months?
What would make this a great quarter for you? 
Why is this important to you?
What would you feel like if they achieved this goal?
How could you make your goal clearer?
How will you know you've achieved your goal?
Describe for me what you will be doing when you can do this.


Remember, all you are doing is asking questions and listening to the responses to guide the conversation. 


Step 2
  Reality

Reality is about understanding where they are now and what the gap is to achieve that goal they've just described.

Find out what they think they are doing well already and what they find more difficult. It is easy to forget what we do well so make sure you explore this area as you will find skills and experiences that the individual could leverage but might not appreciate at that moment.  

Scoring can help you establish how big the gap is, ask them to score themselves out of 10 against achieving this goal now,  And this really gives you a perspective of how big that person sees the gap that they have before them.

Find out if it's an issue of skill or will. Skill is they don't know how to do this yet, or it is a question of will and confidence. These are very different situations, so if we take presentations an example, the needs of someone who doesn't know how to structure a presentation are very different to someone who knows how to do it but they lack confidence in delivering a presentation.

Ask questions, so that together, you establish an understanding of where the person is right now. 
Question Examples - Reality

What steps have you taken to achieve this so far?
What do you already do well?
What are the issues that you're currently facing?
What's working for you now, or what's not?
What would you score yourself between 1 and 10 right now? Why?
Is there anything holding you back?
If you could wave a magic wand to move forward, what would it give you?
What worries you about this goal?
What excites you about this goal?
How will you reward yourself when you achieve this?
Why do you think that might be? (to find out more about any aspect)
How do you feel about this challenge?
Step 3  Options

Options help the person identify what they will do to achieve their goal.

It is vital that you don't tell the answer from your point of view at this stage. It is important to stay asking questions to help the person explore what they choose to do or could do.

Maybe refer to past experience to find out if there is anything they've done before that might help them or how they've addressed challenges.  Identifying who could help them achieve this goal can be very valuable as people often forget to reach out to their network for help, especially when busy.

Help them define what knowledge or skill, or experience they need to address this gap or development need. As they explore the options, help them break it 
down into tangible steps so that it does not become an overwhelming task.
Ask "anything else?" so that you explore other alternatives of how they may go about doing it.

What if they haven't mentioned an action or something you know would help them? Maybe because they've not learned it yet or had the experience of it. Remember, you don't want to fall into the trap of just taking over and telling them what to do. If you're going to offer advice, ask if you could share some advice, don't just tell them. Otherwise, you're just going to take that ownership away from them.
Remember, you've got the power here, and it's easy for the person to defer to your plan and what you think, and it's also easy for you to go into a lot of detail on what they should do. 

Ask if you can give them advice and then share it at the top line, and then ask them what they think about it and how they think that could help them.
And then ask questions that allow them to flesh out how they would do this. This can maintain ownership with the individual and not take it back to you.

Use the summary check step before moving on to the next step so that you keep maintaining that level of alignment as you're going through the conversation.
Question Examples - Options

What could you do?
What options do you face moving forward?
How are you going to achieve this?
What could you do right now?
Anything else?
What is the upside of doing this, and what is the downside of doing it?
Who could help you do this?
Who do they have around them that may be able to help them do this task better? What don't you know?
How long will this take you?
When are you going to start? 

Step 4  Will

The will step is all about committing to the plan they have started to develop, clarifying and confirming which parts of all these actions they could do, are they going to do.

Ask them what help they want from you, and check they think that the plan is doable.

Help them define a clear plan of what they're going to do when they're going to do it, and what support they'll need from you or other people. At that point, they should feel confident and ready to go, and you will have clarity about what they're going to do and your involvement in it.
Question Examples - Will

How confident are you about doing this?
What support will you need to make this happen?
What resources do you need to make this happen?
What support will you need from me? 
When will you start?
What will you do first?
How will you keep yourself going when you do this?
When do you want to review this again with me?

 Getting started

The best way for you as a manager to improve your coaching is to practice. I always say it's in the practice where the magic happens. If you want to be a better manager and leader, focusing on coaching over the coming quarter will accelerate your skillset.

Use your One-to-Ones as an opportune moment to practice. 1:1s are such an important moment to coach and mentor your team, so getting it right makes such a difference. You will discover the questions that work for you, and you will get better at listening and guiding the conversation. Try the questions from this list and add to it with your own questions that you find work well for you.

Remember, the magic happens in the doing; that's where you will learn most. You might feel a little bit uncomfortable, but I promise you that's because you're out of your comfort zone, and you are learning the most. So, practice, practice, practice, and give yourself 12 weeks. You will be amazed at how your coaching skills grow.

Need more help?

Reach out to me on social if you have a question or need a bit more help. 
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Hi There! 
I'm Helen Bryant

I'm a leadership trainer and coach. On a mission to help managers everywhere lead better, thrive in their roles and help create a better workplace for all.
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