Guide Conversations to Action with GROW

December 7, 2015

When was the last time someone came to you with a problem? Did you solve it for them? If so, you may have missed out on a development opportunity – both for that person and yourself.

If you’re looking for problems to solve, you’ll find them everywhere. New managers want to pick up the slack. Department leaders can find it easier deal with problems themselves than let others handle them. By the time an executive assignment comes around, leaders can sometimes be addicted to addressing smaller issues – at expense of their own effectiveness with a staff trained to consistently feed their problems up the chain.

I’d like to share a simple conversational model that can change the entire way you approach the problems that come your way. Whether you’re an executive coach or a frontline manager (or have an hour to invest or five minutes), it will allow you to develop the problem-solving skills of the people you lead rather than addressing each issue yourself. Here’s how works.

Plant GrowingGoal – What do you want to accomplish?

When someone comes to you with an issue, inquire about the big picture. What is the person trying to accomplish? This creates clarity upfront – which is always the best place to start.

Reality – What is the situation?

This is where most conversations start. Someone raises a complication. (Isn’t that what problems are?) It’s important to understand the nature of the challenge in the context of the bigger picture – without jumping to conclusions. This is where your active listening skills come in handy.

Options – What could you do?

At this point, the temptation will be to step in and provide explicit direction. Hold back. Invest a few extra minutes asking the person if they can identify any possible solutions. On one hand, they are the closest one to the issue. On the other hand, stepping in robs them of the opportunity to exercise critical thinking at the crucial moment.

Will – What will you do?

One last temptation here is pick the solution and send the person on their way. Unfortunately, this move transfers the responsibility for a positive outcome from the other person to you. If the commitment comes from the other person, the ownership comes with it.

Once you use GROW, you’re in a great place to follow it up with one of my all-time favorite questions:

“How can I support you?”

It’s difficult to resist solving the problems we encounter, especially if it will take more time and occasional troubleshooting. But if you’ve had followers who were able to dissect their problems and solve them on their own, you know it’s worth it. Provide direction when it’s needed, but how about looking for opportunities to use GROW first?

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader.  Receive his new ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website  or follow him on Twitter.