Using the GROW Model to Facilitate Conversations

Effective conversations need to be organized so that people can move through them in a logical way. One technique is the GROW model. You can use this tool to manage virtually any kind of conversation. For people familiar with the Socratic inquiry, the GROW model is a way to remember each step along the path. Use this tool to train leaders and managers to facilitate effective conversations.

Teaching people the G.R.O.W. model helps them feel more confident and comfortable in managing effective conversations. Using this model, people can tackle complex issues more effectively because the discussion is organized in a way that everyone understands.

The G.R.O.W. model assumes that a logical sequence to a discussion is better than having people speak randomly.

Here’s how it works:


The “G” in G.R.O.W. stands for “goal.” The first thing in a difficult conversation is to establish the goal of the discussion – and its connection to a larger goal for the organization. Maybe it’s to deal with a problem employee or decide whether to discontinue a product line. For example, let’s assume the goal is to deal with a problem employee. As you talk about the goal, it becomes clear that the real goal is to get the employee to make changes to a membership database. Talking first about the goal ensures people are oriented toward the same goal.


The “R” stands for “reality.” The second thing people need to talk about is the current reality. What’s going on? How did we get here? What do we know? What don’t we know? Using the example, the reality may be that people can’t easily update member data, records are inaccurate, and the database can’t import data from other sources.


The “O” stands for “options.” This is the part that people typically jump to before they talked about the goal and the reality! What could we do? Hire a contractor? Change our management approach? Establish priorities for what gets fixed first? Scrap the existing platform? Here’s where people need to engage in creative brainstorming and share their ideas.


Finally, the “W” in G.R.O.W. stands for “will” – as in what will we do and when? This is the time to decide on the next step. It can be the toughest part of the discussion since people need to commit to action. If the decision is being made consultatively, one person can decide. If by consensus, it can take several rounds of asking each person what they would like to do. But ultimately, people are likely to come to an agreement, if only because they’re exhausted! Perhaps the decision is to hire a contractor to assess the quality of the database application. That’s the next step.

Teaching people the G.R.O.W. model helps them feel more confident and comfortable in managing effective conversations. And that’s a key part of managing decisions well.

Additional questions to consider:


  • What outcomes are you seeking by the end of this meeting?


  • What causes you the greatest concern?
  • Who else has some control over the situation and how much?
  • What action steps have you taken on it so far?
  • What stopped you from doing more?
  • What obstacles will need to be overcome?
  • What, if any, internal obstacles or personal resistances do you have to taking action?
  • What resources do you already have? Skill, time, enthusiasm, money, support, etc.?
  • What is really the issue here, the nub of the issue or the bottom line?


  • Make a list of all the alternatives, large or small, complete and partial solutions.
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each of these?
  • Which would give the best result?
  • Which of these solutions appeals to you most, or feels best?
  • Which would create the most satisfaction?


  • What are your criteria and measurements for success?
  • When precisely are you going to start and finish each action step?
  • What resistance will you encounter to taking these steps?
  • What will you do to eliminate these external and internal factors?
  • Who needs to know what your plans are?
  • What support do you need and from whom?
  • What will you do to obtain that support and when?
  • What could your team members do to support you?
  • What commitment on a one-to-ten scale do you have to taking these agreed actions?
  • What prevents this from being a ten?
  • What could you do or alter to raise your commitment closer to ten?

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Eric Douglas

Eric Douglas is the senior partner and founder of Leading Resources Inc., a consulting firm that focuses on developing high-performing organizations. For more than 20 years, Eric has successfully helped a wide array of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and corporations achieve breakthroughs in performance. His new book The Leadership Equation helps leaders achieve strategic clarity, manage change effectively, and build a leadership culture.

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