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Coaching: Have you outgrown GROW?

Coaching: Have you outgrown GROW?

“In the beginning there was darkness, then there was the GROW model. And all thought GROW was light, and when real light emerged some saw that GROW was darkness.”

Let’s not pull any punches; health warning: this a polemic article.

Those who are using GROW, whatever they are doing is not coaching.

If your blood pressure has just gone through the roof, then this article is aimed at you.

Question: When you go to see your physician, does s/he first ask you for your goal? That would be a NO! Of course not. What does any service provider do first, long before establishing your goal? Form a strong rapport! Correct?

Now pray tell, where is that, in the GROW model? That would be: nowhere!

“Oh, it’s implied that you form a rapport!” is the usual response when I challenge people on their outdated use of the first draft model.

“Implied”? Let’s see how and whether that works.

Are you familiar with Einstein’s famous theory: E=MC²? The one where he explains how much energy is contained in any given quantity of matter?

Now imagine Albert had said that E=M.

In your conversation with him you might say: “That can’t possibly be right; you’ve missed by a huge margin; your theory is not complete.”

He then replies: “Oh, don’t worry, C² is implied!”

How credible would he have been? You can use negative numbers to express your response.

The first draft model of coaching, suffers the same problem (among many, many other omissions). Its proponents claim that its omissions are covered by “implication.” That rapport is implied! 

Is that credible?

Far from it!

“Why call GROW ‘The First Draft Model’?”

Usually when a model has been a useful prompter to more advanced thinking, and has been superseded by multiple better models, the first draft model or first draft thinking is thought of as such, an early stumbling start; a necessary building block that fast becomes a historical curiosity.

No? You are not convinced that the first draft model has been superseded? Perhaps this will help.

Let’s go back to your physician appointment.

As we have established s/he starts off (?) by asking you for your goal.

Oh, sorry, correction: does NOT start off by asking your goal. S/he establishes a strong rapport.

Then what?

S/he now asks for your goal? Yes, of course… NOT! S/he most certainly does not.

What does s/he do?

S/he seeks to understand the overview of the problem, its background, its aetiology, its history of development.

Can you imagine how disastrous a medical consultation would be if the physician sought to establish your goal first, before establishing the background factors? Yet, proponents of the outdated, first draft model, insist on slavishly following an acronym that is way past it’s sell-by date. That’s not quite right: it was never good enough to be issued a sell-by date.

You may not know this, but the first draft model, wasn’t even designed as a first draft coaching model; it was designed as a problem solving, mini project management tool. What does that mean? Not only is it not fit for purpose, it wasn’t even designed for purpose!

Yet amazingly, the weekend course trained coaches all across the land are being taught this method.

Several of the “qualification issuing bodies” still teach it! (Yes, you read correctly.) No wonder almost all new coaches are forced back in to employment within a year of training, most within six months.

Just how inadequate is the first draft model?

Would you go to a physician who scored 25% in his or her exams? I hope your response would be: NO WAY! Then by the same logic you would never use the first draft model. Why? Of the four factors that best predict coaching successes, the first draft model misses three of them. GROW scores only 25%.

Those who are using the first draft model to coach, may be doing something, but that something is not coaching. How can it be when three of the four coaching success factors are missed?

Coaching and MentoringMy first coaching model, published in “Coaching and Mentoring” 26 years ago, contained seven stages, thought to be the world’s first process model of coaching, was designed to address the inadequacies in the first draft model. That 7 stage model was later named ‘The Perfect Coach Model.’

Soon after it was upgraded to address further omissions I spotted in my own work. “The Perfect Coach Model 2” has 12 stages.

The day-to-day model I now use when coaching leaders, “The Perfect Coach Model 4” contains over 100 stages, (yes you read correctly), and I share it with people during advanced coaching skills training.
The Perfect Coach Book Cover 160k
At the coaching entry level, one of the tools I use to train people in basic coaching skills is the first draft model. “What?” You might reasonably protest. “You are contradicting yourself! You expressed indignation that such an ineffective model was still being taught! Now you are saying that you teach it!” 

Perhaps you may retract when you learn that the first draft model is used to show delegates how NOT to coach. “How?” When delegates are shown the first draft model and asked to follow it in order to coach each other, they very quickly realise that it is unworkable. They know something is wrong, but not what. That primes them to want to know how effective coaching is conducted. You can imagine their surprise when they are told that there are people out there who are still using what the delegates then know, by their own experience, to be an ineffective and inadequate approach.

One more time: Those who are using GROW, whatever they are doing is not coaching.

Before you go calling for my head to be mounted on a spike for having burned your metaphorically sacred cow, please remember this: for any field to advance, some people must be prepared to challenge the emperor’s new clothes.

The first draft model has no clothes and the sooner it is consigned to the dustbin of coaching history the sooner coaching as a profession can mature. Correction: it is 25% clothed in an environment that needs 100%.

Given what we now know about some of the inadequacies of the first draft model, is there anyone out there willing to admit to using it? Is there anyone who is still clinging to it in the face of all the advances that have taken place since it was designed for other purposes? Are there some people who have not outgrown GROW?

Dr Nigel MacLennan specialises is developing and harnessing cutting-edge leadership coaching tools and methods. If you want to improve your performance, perhaps as a coach, contact Nigel here.

Prof Nigel MacLennan

Copyright Dr Nigel MacLennan 2016