- Dr. Mouna Ben Meftah, Master Degree in Semiotics. Expert in Intercultural Marketing and Communications
When it comes to coaching, it is common practice to identify its founding father in Whitmore, who conceived the GROW model through collaboration with Gallwey (in turn the theorist of the Inner Game method, according to which performance derives from the difference between individual potential and interference internal and external).
However, it is necessary to remember here that coaching has much more ancient origins, traceable already in maieutic thought: Socrates considered the use of dialogue and the formulation of questions to be the method of choice through which to guide the disciple.
To bring to light those truths which, unknowingly, were already present in himself.
Similarly, the coaching method aims to make the individual aware of their abilities through a path in which the coach supports the coachee in enhancing and explaining their resources.
This thought, in reality, is present to a certain extent in the life of each of us; stopping to reflect, we would probably all be able to identify a figure who, in the course of our life, has helped us to make these paths of awareness through active listening and the formulation of the right questions.
In my experience, the person who allowed me to reach this awareness was undoubtedly my grandmother, who, partly unconsciously, used techniques very close to Socratic thought and the GROW model identified by Whitmore.
To date, I am defined by others as a strong person, determined, capable of making decisions and with a great awareness of himself; it is my grandmother that I have to thank for becoming today the person I am, who has done nothing but support me in the path of acquiring awareness about my potential and my limits.
We all have these potentials within us, but not all of us have been lucky enough to have a person able to help us recognize them; the figure of the coach was born to support and guide individuals in this path of self-discovery, through the use of specific techniques and models, within a human and empathic relationship, which leads to the growth of the coachee.
Actually, the English verb “to grow up” in Italian means to grow and actually the application of the Whitmore model allows growth of the coachee, bringing to light new awareness, such as a grandmother does with her granddaughter.
Whitmore’s GROW model, widely used today as it is considered one of the most effective within coaching, owes its name to the acronym of the four elements considered by the Author as fundamental, namely Goal, Reality, Options and Will.
We can often find these four characteristics also within our interpersonal relationships when we compare ourselves with someone dear to us to ask him for advice regarding a situation that temporarily causes us a crisis of self-governance or prevents us from thinking clearly about actions to be put in place to resolve the same effectively.
For example, I fondly remember the visits I made to my grandmother as a child, during which I confided my worries and anger to her.
Through the right questions, she guided me towards a reflection that would help me better understand my states of mind and decide how to behave, making me feel very relieved.
In coaching, this aspect is called “mobility” and represents both the main responsibility of the coach and the aim to aim for during the session.
The coach must in fact work, through the formulation of precise questions, with the aim of making the coachee find mobility again.
Lost, that is, the drive to act necessary to restore the equilibrium cracked by the crisis of self-government.
Therefore, while the achievement of the set goal is the coachee’s responsibility, it is instead the coach’s responsibility to achieve the mobility necessary to pursue the goal itself.
Affirming that the achievement of the goal is the sole responsibility of the coachee is equivalent to saying that the coach must not act in his place, replacing the latter in achieving the goal, but must limit himself to allowing him to regain the mobility temporarily lost.
Once again, my grandmother’s behavior comes to mind: she has never interfered in a quarrel between my mother and me, for example, by taking my side, but has always limited herself to helping me reflect on the situation, leaving me the task of making the decisions that I felt were most right and acting in that direction.
Similarly, the coach must support the coachee in this process but then leave him free to work independently and not replace him in achieving the goal, which, as already mentioned, is the sole responsibility of the coachee.
The first aspect identified by Whitmore concerns the “Goals,” which in Italian we can identify as the “objectives”: the definition of them represents the starting point of each coaching session, that is to define the purpose and the objective that the coachee wants.
Reach through the path.
These objectives can be short, medium or long term; the important thing is that they have some fundamental characteristics, summarized in the acronym
Specific: the objectives identified must be clear, defined and concrete.
Extremely vague or generic objectives could hinder the success of the intervention.
The definition of a goal is the basis of the entire work, which is why if it is not clear, the quality of the intervention is affected, not guaranteeing the achievement of the same.
It frequently happens that the coachee arrives in session with extremely generic and undefined objectives in mind, which is why it is the task of the coach to guide him towards their correct specification.
Measurable: another fundamental characteristic is that a goal must be measured, monitored and reported.
When some types of objectives are clearly defined (for example, improving academic performance in mathematics), this characteristic is implicit.
In contrast, for others, it may be necessary to determine the evaluation parameters.
This means that every objective, regardless of its nature, to be valid must have an explanation both of the parameters that will be measured (the “what” to measure) and the modalities through which this measurement will be carried out (the how to measure).
Also in this case, the coach’s fundamental task is to stimulate reflection in the coachee regarding the correct definition of these parameters, on the basis of which the success or failure of the intervention will subsequently be assessed.
Attainable (feasible): the goal to be set must respond to the characteristics of its feasibility.
It must actually be possible to achieve it to avoid frustration and alienation on the part of the coachee.
To identify the actual feasibility, it is essential to understand which factors could affect the goal itself and which environmental or situational influences may arise between the individual and his purpose.
It is necessary to keep in mind the difficulties that may occur and identify possible solutions to guarantee the project’s feasibility.
The goal, however, must be modulated on individual needs, since based on these the same task can be considered by different subjects “too easy” and therefore dull, or “too difficult” and thus a cause of anxiety and stress.
Relevant: another fundamental characteristic of a correctly formulated goal is that it possesses emotional relevance for the coachee; this is necessary because, on the contrary, it will never be able to be satisfied and satisfied with a job that does not matter to him.
No goal can be considered functional if there is no motivational basis of interest in achieving it.
Time-bound (Thunderstorms): the goal must be well organized at a temporal level and programmed by not too long timelines.
It would be better not to exceed one year in duration, in order not to cause anguish and anxiety in the coachee, but if it were too long and complicated, it would be good to break it down into various sub-objectives that can be pursued through shorter steps.
Ecological: the objectives must be designed compatibly with the wishes and needs of the individual, as well as compatibly with the environmental variables that can affect their success.
Furthermore, an objective must inextricably respect the culture and values of the coachee.
Register: that is, the goal must be monitored throughout the course in order not to lose contact with it and with the steps that lead to its realization.
It is vital to keep every step under control and not lose sight of the initial focus, remaining linked to reality and awareness, not only of oneself, but also of what you want and how to achieve your dreams.
Once again, the importance of setting goals according to these parameters reminds me that when, during visits to my grandmother, I told her that I felt disheartened due to an argument with my mother and said, for example, “no, enough, I don’t want to lead this life anymore! ” she always told me “but this is not a solution.
What is it that you would like to change specifically? What concrete problem do you want to solve? ” encouraging me to look for a possible concrete resolution.
Unknowingly, through her questions, my grandmother pushed me to reflect on what I wanted and to frame the goal so that I could work to achieve it.
The second aspect at the basis of the GROW model is “reality”, that is reality, one of the cornerstones of coaching, since it reminds the person not to detach from it, keeping in mind all the variables that can come into play, understanding whether the situation is whether or not it is controllable or if there are influences that could interfere with the lens.
At this stage, it is essential to guide the coachee in a reflection on their current situation, starting from the analysis of existing facts; in addition, it is also necessary to recognize the existence of several factors (opinions, prejudices, judgments, etc.
) which implicitly influence the vision of reality.
Just as my grandmother calmed my anger during my outbursts, inviting me to reflect more on the current situation and to question myself about the factors that could amplify it at that moment by clarifying it in my mind, in the same way the coach must try to take the necessary detachment to formulate the right questions that can push the coachee to be as objective as possible during this evaluation.
For example, I remember that my grandmother often asked me, “what did you do to achieve what you wanted? Have you talked to your mom? “….
“Options”, which is the third aspect of the GROW model represents the definition of obstacles and the ways to pursue the goal, therefore what and how can be done, what different options you have to achieve the same goal and what resources you have to arrangement.
The coach’s questions in this phase will be aimed at stimulating reflection on the possibilities of action to achieve the set goal.
Returning to my memories, my grandmother often asked me, “what can you do to solve this problem? What strategies do you have at your disposal? ” helping me think about what options I had at my disposal to effectively resolve the problem situation.
“Will” which indicates the will, is identifiable in answer to the questions “When”, “What”, “Where”, “Who” and “How” and therefore “when” to start working towards one’s goal, “what” to do to reach the goal, “where” and “with whom” to work and “in what way” in terms of resources and concrete methods.
In this phase, the aspects examined previously are concretized, making them converge in the path that the coachee will have to implement.
Similarly, compared to the frequent quarrels with my mom, my grandmother always asked me, “When do you want to talk to your mother? What do you want to tell her? How do you want to talk to her? ” and thanks to them I was able to focus my attention on the individual actions that I wanted to do to achieve my goal.
Following these steps and making sure to be accompanied by a coach throughout the course makes sure that the subject is aware of what he can do, remaining faithful to a state of reality without setting himself abstract or unattainable goals, but rather programmed and realistic.
Having in mind a goal that possesses these characteristics will allow the subject to have satisfaction and fulfillment in carrying it out, abandoning that sense of discouragement and frustration that characterizes random and uncertain purposes.
With this in mind, a coach represents the guide that allows you to define desires and accompanies them towards their realization with clarity and awareness.
Indeed, when I left my grandmother’s house, thanks to her questions and the consequent reflections she stimulated in me, I remember that I was able to see the situation differently and knew better how to act.
The model developed by Whitmore is very effective and, if applied correctly, allows to concretely help those who turn to a coach to achieve functional objectives; moreover, this model can also be effectively applied in daily life, outside of a coaching session, representing a great resource that each of us can count on, as the memories of chats with my grandmother show.
However, if not applied within a welcoming, empathic and never judgmental relationship, even if perfectly respected, it will never lead to the desired results.
This is because the fundamental condition for applying, not only the GROW model but in general the tools used in coaching, is the existence of an authentic, sincere, empathic, engaging and non-judgmental relationship between coach and coachee.
In particular, it should be emphasized importance for the coach to refrain from any form of judgment so that the coachee feels free to express himself without censorship and constraints, allowing him to speak openly about any topic he wishes during the session.
If we think about it, this non-judgmental aspect unites all grandmothers, conventionally considered.
those who protect their grandchildren and are always available to welcome them about their fears and their desires.
Regarding my childhood, I remember that I never felt completely comfortable.
opening up to my mom, probably because of her extreme severity; in fact, she has always imposed very strict rules on me and I, probably for fear of her possible punishment, have never been able to speak to her openly, telling her everything that came to my mind without any filter.
Probably this was also partly because I felt scarcely welcomed by my mother: for example, there was the rule of not entering the house with shoes, which were always stored near the door.
On the contrary, I remember with deep affection that my grandmother never judged my thoughts, my behaviors or my choices, nor did she ever impose anything on me, on the contrary leaving me free to decide for me; for these reasons, I much preferred to confide in her, who never made me feel judged.
Unlike my mom, my grandmother never imposed anything on me, making me feel very welcome: for example, I remember that she never told me where to put my shoes and she never forced me to leave them out, telling me every time I could decide I what to do.
Likewise, the coach during a session should try to make the coachee feel comfortable; it is crucial to avoid any kind of judgment, as it would risk inhibiting the latter from expressing himself freely, just as it happened to me with my mother.
The story of the place to store shoes also refers to one of the fundamental aspects of the coaching sessions: Hospitality.
It is the coach’s task to convey to the coachee, through behaviors such as leaving the latter the freedom to use the space as he prefers and to establish an empathic and solid relationship over time, the feeling of being accepted for what he is, without any judgment and bond.
It was not only the absence of rules that made me perceive this climate of deep trust and affinity with my grandmother but also her willingness to pay total attention to my stories, an aspect that I could notice from her comments and never improper considerations, similar to the fundamental use of feedback and active listening techniques by the coach during the sessions.
– The GROW model is inscribed within a broader framework that cannot be simply summarized in the points described above but, on the contrary, also includes the use of these two fundamental tools: feedback, (which is different from advice, an opinion and/or a judgment) that leads to comparison and active listening, that is a listening capable of paying attention to what the other reports to us through different channels, refraining from judging its contents.