Stop Your Coaching Conversations from Rambling On Forever

Stop your coaching conversations from rambling on forever

Have you started coaching a team member? Are you finding that your coaching sessions are rambling on for too long? That they are fun but you can’t remember what you agreed upon? Do your coaching sessions end without an action plan?

Yes? You need GROW!

GROW is an acronym for Goal, Reality, Options (and Obstacles), and Way forward (or what will you do?). It’s a simple model that will help you to structure your coaching conversations to prevent them from becoming long rambling chats that don’t result in anything. And as much as you might enjoy catching up with the person you’re coaching, that’s a separate activity.

As a business person you must guard your time as your most valuable resource. And the best way to this is to use a defined structure. As a bonus, you’ll find that the person you’re coaching will also get more value out of a coaching call when you’re using GROW.


Start the conversation by looking at the goal that they are looking to achieve. Any goals that this person is setting must be SMART goals. Yep, another acronym: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. To ensure it’s a SMART goal, ask a questions like: “How will we know that the goal is achieved?” “When will we know the goal is achieved?” “How does this goal fit with overall career objectives?” By answering these questions you pretty much automatically make it a SMART goal.


In this part of the conversation you help them explore their current reality or situation. Questions like “What steps have you already taken towards this goal?”, “What was the result of this?” or “What is happening now (with whom? When? Where? How often?)” During this phase, obstacles, and sometimes solutions, present themselves. This then naturally leads to the next step.

Options (and Obstacles)

Once you have a goal and a picture of the current reality, you need to look at the options to achieve the goal. Help your team member to brainstorm but don’t do it for them. Asking questions like “What else could you do?”, “What if this obstacle was removed, what could you do then?”, or “What do you need to stop doing to achieve this goal?”, “What are the advantages and disadvantages of that option?”, or “What obstacles stand in your way?” will be helpful to get them started.

Way forward

From the previous brainstorm some viable options or first steps should emerge. Now you help them to establish how they will achieve the goal. Use questions such as: “What will you do (and when?)”, “How will you keep yourself motivated?”, or “When will you review your progress?” In this step you also decide when to get in touch again to review the progress.

Groundhog Day

I have been using the GROW model in my coaching conversations for nearly a decade. In the beginning I used to tear my hair out as coaching session after coaching session felt like the movie Groundhog Day. The goal was the same as last month, so was the reality. And another month had gone by without any progress.

Now that I’ve learned how to use the model properly my time management and the results are so much better!

Coaching for direct sales team leaders.

So although GROW is great model to structure coaching conversations, there are 3 things to keep in mind to get the most out of it:

  • It’s super easy to slip into “expert mode” and tell them them what you think they should do. However if you do that, the person you’re coaching has no ownership over the process or the goals. Which means they have no real motivation to achieve the goals and do the work. So to make sure they own their goals and plans, you must let them come up with ideas. This also takes the pressure off you to be the expert with the magic answers.
  • Nurture them along the way. It’s important to frequently touch base to keep people on track in between coaching sessions. You could, for example, schedule a quick “power call” (3 to 4 minutes) to encourage them and see how they’re tracking. You can also use text messages or Facebook to check in with them. If you ask people to “keep you posted” and put the ball in their court, chances are you won’t speak to them until the next session. However, if you take the initiative and check in with them, they feel valued and encouraged and you keep them accountable. I found this makes a massive difference. 
  • When you’re coaching multiple people it becomes even more important to improve your efficiency. Group people with similar goals and realities together and do a group coaching session. Group calls save you time and they also improve accountability and motivation. Bonus!

Once you learn how to use the GROW model, your coaching sessions will no longer ramble on forever without any results. You will find that the reality will keep changing as they are growing and working towards their goals. Coaching sessions will not feel like Groundhog Day but become exciting as you can celebrate wins and set new goals, whether they are small and modest or big and hairy.

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