Three colleagues Alan Fine, John Whitmore, and Graham Alexander developed the original GROW Model over twenty-five years ago. The basic GROW Model is an acronym for the four stages of decision making and is considered today by many executive coaches worldwide to be a gold-standard framework for structuring coaching conversations.
The GROW Acronym represents the four core components of any decision-making process:
InsideOut Development founder, Alan Fine, began his career as a tennis coach working with up-and-coming tennis professionals. As he worked with athletes, he realized that the biggest performance challenge wasn’t that people didn’t know what to do, but rather that they didn’t do what they know. In other words, performance breakthroughs come from the inside out.
From these experiences, in mid- to late-1980, Fine and two other collaborators, Graham Alexander and Sir John Whitmore, developed the GROW Model—one of the world’s most recognized and influential coaching models today.
GROW is an acronym representing the four core components in any significant decision-making process. The meanings of the first three letters are shared by all major iterations of the model. “G” represents the “Goal” the individual seeks to achieve; “R”, the “Realities” a person should consider in the context of the decision process; and “O”, the “Options” open to the decision-maker. “W” has been interpreted in a variety of ways. But Fine defined it as “Way Forward”—a specific action plan that he feels maximizes the precision and proactivity of the GROW Model.
“The Way Forward makes the decision process something tangible and actionable, where it becomes very clear to the person making the decision what should happen next,” Fine says. “In the absence of motivating clarity,” he argues, “people simply don’t take action.”
The GROW Model is constructed upon a deceptively simple insight–that breakthrough performance comes more often, not from acquiring additional knowledge, but from removing internal interference that allows the person to act on what they already know. Good decisions lead to effective actions which lead to productive results. Fine calls this phenomenon “Decision Velocity”—the speed and accuracy of decisions that drive individual and organizational performance.
Fine sees the GROW Model as a powerful change agent that enables both individuals and organizations to effectively focus on “the critical variables” of decision-making. “By focusing on each stage of the GROW Model, we gain greater awareness,” he says. “This in turn accelerates our ability to become what Stephen R. Covey calls ‘response-able.’ In the final analysis, this ability to avoid internal distraction and act consciously is what drives genuine change.”
Fine discovered at a tender age the barriers that internal performance inhibitors can create. He was a painfully shy child with severe asthma. Despite these inhibitors, his brother entered him in a school tennis tournament in elementary school when Alan was 11 years old. Though Fine had been on a court only a few times in his life, he recalls, “Somehow I got to the final, and found myself playing against the 13-year-old school jock; he was captain of the rugby team and already had facial hair.”
Leading 6-4, 4-0, Fine heard a voice in his head saying, “You have to win only two more games, and you are the school champion.” He froze and did not win another game. This experience and others like it became latent seeds that ultimately bloomed into a profusion of performance insight within him. Tennis and coaching became fixtures in Fine’s life. He began coaching at 13, and received remuneration for his efforts at the early age of 15.
“Coaching was an easy and natural thing for me to do,” Fine says. Eventually he began working with regional and national coaches; he used what he earned to pay his way through college as a tennis player and coach. Fine went to college with the intention to become an optometrist, but he was so focused on playing and coaching tennis that he dropped out in his second year and started his own coaching practice, complete with pro shop and sporting goods store, in his home town of Cardiff, the capital of Wales. He was the first full-time tennis coach in Wales. With scant resources, Fine and fellow Welsh native Paul Daly built their club into a hub of Welsh tennis, attracting and developing national-caliber players.
“It was an exciting time for me, one in which I saw first-hand the benefits of coaching,” Fine says. “We were able to create a culture that seemed to excite a high level of energy and enthusiasm about tennis, which translated into a fairly high level of skill in the region.”
As Fine worked with promising students who struggled with pressure and learning challenges, he developed a growing interest in sports psychology. “The impact of internal processes on performance rose to the forefront of my awareness during this time,” he says. Fine’s interest in sports psychology led him to explore Tim Gallwey’s The Inner Game concept. He developed a long-time friendship and collaboration with Alexander and Whitmore. The three worked together for three years in the early 1980s before co developing the
G.R.O.W .Model that has had such a lasting impact on the world of athletic and corporate coaching.
Shortly after Fine and his collaborators developed the GROW Model, the partners went their separate ways, each utilizing his own approach to the model. Since then, Fine has steadily refined and built upon the original model. A host of significant innovations to the GROW Model occurred at InsideOut Development, which Fine founded in 1985 in the UK and eventually relocated to Utah in the United States.
InsideOut Development is a professional services firm that provides leadership, management, and front-line employee training programs; executive coaching services; team performance workshops; and reinforcement services to a large global clientele. The company, recognized as a leader in developing manager-as-coach skills, trains tens of thousands of people annually using the GROW Model and other innovative tools and programs developed by Alan Fine and the InsideOut Development team. The company also provides instructional certification and has certified thousands of facilitators in its program offerings. During the past two decades, Fine and his collaborators at InsideOut Development have created targeted products and services that use the GROW Model tailored to a wide array of clients, applications, and contexts.
Fine’s approach has led him to become a prominent performance trainer and coach for leaders in diverse fields of endeavor–from corporate executives and entrepreneurs to educators and professional athletes. In the organizational arena, InsideOut Development has worked with some of the world’s most respected organizations, including BP, Cadbury Schweppes, IBM, Proctor & Gamble, NASA, and the U.S. Navy. Fine has received considerable attention in the U.S. and throughout the world for the often-dramatic performance improvements of prominent athletes, including former Davis Cup tennis star Buster Mottram and Professional Golfers’ Association(PGA) golfers Stephen Ames, Bradley Dredge, Paul Lawrie, David Llewellyn, Colin Montgomery, and Philip Price.
Ames has publicly credited Fine for accelerating his emergence from relative obscurity to win the 2006 Players Championship by an astounding six strokes. “When I started working with … Alan … in 2004, there was a noticeable difference in my game,” Ames said in a 2009 Golf Digest interview. “After that, every year has been a great year.” According to Ames, Fine’s guidance helped him remove internal performance interference and “play more naturally, like Stephen Ames the instinctive player rather than Stephen Ames the technical player.”
The GROW Model is virtually universal in its application. The model’s efficacy transcends boundaries of culture, discipline, and personality. “I’ve seen this help people in large corporations and small companies; from high-tech to finance; and in government, education, and athletic settings on multiple continents,” Fine says. “It just works.”