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Being Mean to the GROW Model - Have I become the Regina George of Coaching?

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

I am trying to think back to the beginning when I very first heard of and practiced GROW. It was a long time ago and it seems to be in my make-up to be persuaded by every theory and model that crosses my path. I studied a PGc in psychology at University and remember being bowled over by Bowlby, then Maslow and finally Piaget and Vygotsky. The only approach I have ever resisted is Behaviourism not because I don’t buy it, truth is, I am really scared of it and in my own narcissistic way cannot belieeeeeve this women could be so easily influenced by anything as reductive! What I mean is, Behaviourism reduces human experience to a series of stimuli and responses. Which reminds me, where did I put that face cream with the pentapeptides, bats eyes and pig’s urine?

So back to GROW, what was it about GROW that made me leave it behind in favour of more on trend models? What I have learnt is that I still really like, and practice with GROW and while simplistic in process the application can be far more complex and nuanced when entering someone else’s map of the world. So, if you hoping to find a bit of GROW bashing, you are in the wrong place! not today Satan, not today! I will share with you my experience of GROW and how I have fallen in love with it all over again, like the flourishing of a returning close and stable friendship, one I can count on, one I chose to neglect in my arrogance and ignorance and now hold dear and ask for forgiveness.

2010, in comes GROW, WOW! It changed every conversation. My previous conversations had been about control, advice and superiority, all well intended. I was the friend who would counter your situation and story, by telling you that I had just the same experience and poured cream all over your cake and you did not like cream. In line management meetings I would crush ideas and thinking by saying ‘yes that’s a really great idea, BUT!”. I had so much to learn and GROW enabled me to start to see others and myself (Whitmore, Cleverly Connected - Sir John Whitmore, 2013).

“ I will share with you my experience of GROW and how I have fallen in love with it all over again, like the flourishing of a returning close and stable friendship, one I can count on, one I chose to neglect in my arrogance and ignorance and now hold dear and ask for forgiveness.”

In the early days GROW enabled me to hold a space in service of the other person, changing the way I was leading, managing and more. It was transforming my relationships at work, at home and with myself. I am sure Mr B will not mind me saying here that we, like so many couples, looked over the cliff edge of divorce. However, our developing ability to hold conversation, air frustration in a compassionate way and understand the other person, has saved us. We still disagree, more so than ever, however disagreement now feels safe! This was mirrored in my professional life too, disconnection and exclusion were toxic organisational habits I was prescribing, all veiled in naivety. GROW opened a door to explore and embrace the potential in others, to see what was hidden and increase diversity of voice in the workplace (Kline, 2020). On reflection this was a beautiful period in my messy professional life. I revelled in watching others develop, this made me happy and more fulfilled than I had ever felt chasing the next promotion.

As a professional coach I began to place GROW to one side, ignoring the friend who had been so kind and enabled so much development. I had outgrown GROW! I spotted the dazzling lights and promise of Gestalt who, let’s be honest, felt more like my tribe. Is it true could I possibly have been the Regina George of the coaching models and approaches? Just to let you know, Regina George is a character in a film called Mean Girls, a family favourite for us. I also flirted with newfound friends like Goal Free, Creative Techniques and one of my best friends Narrative Coaching. These coaching approaches wrapped themselves around me and took me to new places, empowered exciting exploration, and led to adventures in coaching (Dowman, 2020).

Like old friends, GROW crossed my mind and I wondered how I might talk about and reflect on GROW in coaching training. We didn’t fall out, and in all fairness, we would have said hello to each other in the street and from time to time had a quick catch up. As I reflected on GROW, I questioned how far I have really wandered or whether it is simple the case that I no longer use GROW in its most rigid format. For example, what do we mean when we use the word ‘goal’? Is a focus a soft goal? What does it mean to be goal light? and can we be truly goal free? Answering these questions suggests that this old friend has sat in the background to my coaching, observing and relishing in my development like a proud parent or the dearest of friends.

Just like the end of Mean Girls, my belief is you can have it all. You might have a really close friend you have met throughout your coaching journey who you now hold dear to your heart. That doesn’t have to set other models and approaches up as enemies, we can learn from the other. I am now working hard to come to terms with some of my own polarities and exclusions (Kline, 2020). In this reflection, I feel we can coexist, ask an old coaching friend for advice and on occasions pop in for a coffee and a chat.

This refection is framed as an appreciation to Sir John Whitmore and GROW you were there at my beginning and will be with me to the end.


Dowman, B. (2020). Adventures in Coaching . London: Nicholas Brearley Publishing.

Kline, N. (2020). The Promise That Changes Everything. London: Penguin.

Whitmore, J. (2013, February 13). Cleverly Connected - Sir John Whitmore. Retrieved from YouTube:

Whitmore, J. (2017). Coaching For Performance. London: Nicholas Brierley.You’ll be posting loads of engaging content, so be sure to keep your blog organized with Categories that also allow visitors to explore more of what interests them.

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