InsideOut Development

GROW Solves Problems Big and Small

by Greg Edwards


“Would your employees hire you because of the value you bring them as their manager?” This question is often asked by our founder, Alan Fine, to get managers thinking about whether they are really driving value as coaches. Motivating change and improvement can follow the same process in a work setting and a personal setting. What value do you bring to people’s lives—as a boss, as a co-worker, or as a friend.

GROW® Coaching enables you to help people solve problems, commit to action, and produce results—at home or at the office. Here’s how I used GROW coaching to help a friend get “unstuck.” 


For the past decade, my friend, Joel and I have discussed grad school and considered getting our MBAs. In 2012, I took the plunge and started my graduate program. Before, during, and after getting my MBA, Joel would often ask how I liked it and whether or not it would be worth it for him to go back to and get an MBA. These conversations typically ended with him feeling like he needed to go to grad school, too, to achieve the goals he had set for himself.

I would tell him it was worthwhile and encourage him to go back to school. I thought I’d done all I could. That’s where I was wrong. For years, the conversations would continue. Joel would begin with conversation with, “So, I’ve been thinking of getting my MBA.” I would encourage him to do it. His motivation fizzled out. Nothing changed.

A few weeks ago, I decided to try a different approach. The conversation started the same way it always does. “I’ve been thinking of getting my MBA,” he said. “A lot of the jobs I’m looking at require an MBA.”

Rather than starting my usual encouragement spiel, I replied, “It seems like you’ve wanted to go back for some time. I’ve been trying to become a better coach and wonder if you’d allow me to help coach you to see if getting your MBA is something you’re willing to take action on.”

I’ll admit, he was a little weirded-out and acted as if I was offering the chance to join some get-rich-quick-scheme. He asked what the “coaching” would entail, and I told him that I wanted to ask him some questions to help him get clear on what his next steps should be toward applying for his MBA. He agreed and we arranged a time for lunch.

With my GROW notepad in-tow, I met Joel for lunch. More than anything, he was eager to have someone take interest in helping him achieve his goals. I was eager to be a good friend and practice my coaching skills. We went through the GROW Model® together.

GROW: The Ultimate Map for Decision Making

If you aren’t familiar with GROW Coaching, check out the article above. Here’s what Joel’s and my GROW conversation looked like:


Joel’s ultimate goal was to get his MBA, but through our conversation he realized his more urgent goal was to take the steps needed to simply apply for his MBA. Clarifying our goal got us to a place where we could create actions to move him further down the path toward his ultimate goal. Learn how to set a better goal in this blog post. 


Once we clarified the goal, I knew we needed to discuss the current Reality. But before we could dive in to Reality, Joel tried to jump ahead by telling me what he thought he needed to do. It felt a little awkward, but I paused the conversation and asked him to instead share what he had done to prepare himself for the decision and the obstacles that might stop him from achieving his goal. He shared the stress of his current job, a wife pregnant with their first child, and the worry about getting back into “school mode.” After contemplating all these things, he still responded positively when I asked him if his Goal was still realistic. 


As we started discussing Options, Joel was confident he knew his next steps. However, we wanted to be sure this was the best option, so we brainstormed other options he hadn’t explored. This stopped him from pigeon-holeing himself into a single way to achieve the goal. Learn more about teasing out options in this blog post. Once he had given me a few options, I shared a few things that had helped me in applying and staying on the course to the ultimate Goal and we nailed down the option he felt would work best.

Way Forward

In less than 15 minutes, we had made it to the final part of the GROW process—finding a Way Forward. With excitement, we created an action-plan on the option he chose. Joel’s task was to reach out to someone from the school’s admissions department, and I was to follow-up with him the day after to ensure he had follow through on his commitment.


The Results

To my delight, Joel reached out right after he met with the admissions department. He was excited based on their discussion. I encouraged him to continue on the path and was elated when he sent me this text shortly after with an acceptance letter to the program:

Would Joel have gone on to get his MBA regardless of our discussion? Probably. But the GROW Model got Joel to take action when my encouragement hadn’t been able to.

Think of some of those recurring conversations you have with friends. Are there instances where they’re stuck and could be helped with coaching?

The reality is that everyone needs coaching. My challenge to you is to look for ways to help coach those in need—both in the workplace and out. Two things will happen when you do:

  1. Your relationships with friends and family will grow deeper as they look to you as a resource who can help solve their biggest problems
  2. Your coaching skills will improve. You’ll feel better about yourself because you know you’re helping those you care about most. Coach-on, friends! Coach-on!
7 Essential Coaching Behaviors

Category: Coaching Leadership GROW Model Career Development

Picture of Greg Edwards

Greg Edwards is an analyst, researcher, and business intelligence expert, with work targeting and understanding learners and leaders via behavior-driven data. He has extensive experience managing in-house and remote teams and understands the nuances each present. Greg is passionate about discovering what makes good organizations tick—and how to make them tick faster and better. He holds a degree in international business management and a Master of Business Administration and loves spending time with his wife and three children.

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