Everyone needs a coach or mentor. No one can achieve his full potential without a coach or mentor.
Serena Williams is one of the greatest female tennis players that has ever lived. She has a coach.
Think of any successful athlete in any area, he or she has a coach. Is this limited to sports? Absolutely not! Whether you are in business, academics, medicine, retail, you cannot attain your full potential without a coach or mentor. We are designed that way. We need someone else with more experience than us to help guide us. Even when we are the best in the world–like Serena Williams– we still need a coach!
Since 2005, I’ve been blessed with the privilege of coaching and mentoring hundreds of people of different ages, backgrounds, social and economic status. I’m also an avid student of life, always studying and researching the best ways to influence people better. Below, I share my coaching and mentoring framework.
Problem or Proposition
When people come to me for coaching or mentoring, they have a problem or a proposition. And they want to talk about the problem. Often, they are preoccupied with it. It’s best to listen to it just enough to understand the situation and for them to feel understood. You must use empathic listening skills and seek first to understand them before you seek to be understood as you guide them. Then you must move away from the problem. As a coach, you don’t want to sit and listen to problems for too long. Ask them clarifying questions such as: What is being done that is causing the problem. What behaviors are being done that are causing the problem? What behaviors are not being done that are causing the problem? Problems always arise from commission or omission.
I help my clients know this:
- When you see a problem, see an opportunity for growth. Every problem is an opportunity for growth.
- When you feel stuck with a problem, become annoyed, and are tempted to quit, realize that it’s because you are operating with a fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset.
The GROWTH framework or GROWTH model
I’ve found my GROWTH framework very effective for coaching, mentoring, problem-solving, and creating strategy. I’ve seen it work great in all kinds of situations. Many of the elements in it aren’t new. To create it, I borrowed from existing coaching frameworks and approaches to strategy and merged that with my own ideas and experience from practicing and studying coaching for over a decade now.
GROWTH stands for:
- Goals and aspirations
- Options and obstacles
- Winnowing down and moving forward.
- Thinking shift / Transformational paradigm shift.
- Help or Helpful capabilities, systems, and structures.
A good way to think about the GROWTH model is to think about a person planning a journey. First, he must decide where he wants to go, say from point A to point B. Point B is the goal and aspiration. He starts with the destination or vision. Next, he must look at where he currently is (his current reality).
In step 3, he explores various routes (or options) to get to his destination. In step 4, he picks a few of the routes he had brainstormed and created in step 3, commits to the journey, and prepares himself for the obstacles that he could meet on the way. Each route has its own challenges or obstacles to be overcome. No route is without obstacles. He must choose the best possible path for his circumstances and prepare for that before he leaves.
In step 5, he focuses on his mindset. What transformational paradigm shift has happened or needs to happen for the problem to be solved? And step 6 addresses the question, “What help will you need to achieve your goals and aspirations?”
How to use the GROWTH Model
Use the GROWTH framework to structure your mentoring or coaching sessions. Use the following 6 steps:
1. Goals and aspirations: Establish goals and aspirations.
What are your goals and aspirations?
Begin with the end in mind.
Goals and aspirations are the end point, where the client wants to be. This is where the client has to dream or imagine a better future. You want them to tell you what their winning aspiration is. You want them to give a vision. I define vision as a “clear, compelling, mental image of a desired future is based upon an accurate understanding of one’s core ideology, giftedness(resources), and the external circumstances.”
Leadership expert, Dan Rockwell, asks his clients to imagine what it would be like if things were going perfectly. Many times, Rockwell says people don’t know what the solution should be because they are lost in the problem. This step turns the person towards envisioning a better tomorrow. They may not actually accomplish it during one conversation, but it at least gets them started.
If the problem is a behavior that needs to be changed, structure the change as a goal that the team member wants to achieve. The goal must be SMART. It must be specific and very clear, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. When goals are SMART it is easy to know when they are achieved.
Winning aspirations and goals must agree with the client’s purpose, core values, and overall vision for her career and life.
Good goals and aspirations become the objective of the coaching relationship and help us in multiple ways: 1) They guide us, 2) Inspire us, 3) Focus us, 4) help us to measure our progress and success.
2. Reality: Assess the current reality (Inside and outside)
If you don’t know where you are right now and how you are doing, you won’t be able to move to the next level or move from this point, A, to the next point, B, in your journey.
Here ask the mentee to tell you her current reality. This is a crucial step that a lot of people miss. You must first know your current situation before you can effectively move forward. Frequently, as the team member explains the current reality, solutions start to emerge.
Inside and outside: Success depends on internal and external factors. Success comes from the inside-out. From the heart level, in terms of inner character, what is this person’s reality? What strengths, talents, competencies do they have? That forms part of their personal internal reality. On a scale of 0 to 10 rank what they currently have vis-a-vis what they need to achieve their goal.
Success also depends on factors external to the team member, e.g. the organizational environment. Sometimes success even depends on factors external to the company, e.g. The geopolitical and economic landscape.
Rating progress: What are you currently doing to try to achieve your goals? On a scale of 0 to 10, what progress have you made towards your goal?
When you start asking what they’ve done, people get general in their responses because often, they haven’t done anything. But asking the questions anyway gets them thinking.
3. Options and Obstacles: Brainstorm Options and explore Obstacles
What possible options could we choose to do and stop doing to reach our goal?
Options include things to do and things to stop doing!
After discussing their current reality, the next step is to brainstorm possible options that can be taken. This is a solution-generating step. Have him come up with as many options as possible and then select the best ones later. While you may contribute some options, your job at this stage and throughout the whole process is listening, questioning, and suggesting. Let your team member do most of the talking and come up with most of the options.
Things to do.
Continue to ask questions like, “What else could you do?” to get more options or more details on an issue.
Things to stop doing.
What do you need to stop? When we have problems, often we are doing things that we shouldn’t be doing. Some people think the way to fix something that is not working is to try harder and harder. It never occurs to them that they may need to stop and change their strategy!
Obstacles. For each option, have your team member come up with the following
- What challenges or obstacles will you face if you choose that option?
- The advantages and disadvantages of each option.
- The challenges or obstacles associated with each option.
- What factors or considerations will you use to weigh the options?
4. Winnowing down and moving forward.
Off all the possible options available to us, 1) what options are we choosing now to do and stop doing? And how will we choose to succeed there against the corresponding obstacles?
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. We need to help the team member establish both here.
After looking at the current reality and then brainstorming many possible options, your team member is now ready to winnow down the options, pick a few specific ones (Plan A, B, C), commit to the journey, and make the way forward. This is the time to select a few solutions and focus on them.
Small steps and Imperfect behaviors: Start with small steps and imperfect solutions. Ask your team member, “What is the imperfect behavior that will move this forward?” There is no time to find a perfect solution. It’s best to perfect as you go since there is no time. Research shows that teams that perfect as they go do better than teams that want to wait until they become perfect. You want several possible behaviors, at least 3 that will move the ball forward. Again, it is just to move the ball forward. And we are looking for something imperfect at this point, just a step in the right direction.
Have them commit to actions they will take immediately, in the short-term, and in the long-term.
Try this week: What would you like to try this week? Listen to their tone for excitement and lack thereof and encourage people to move forward.
Try Next week: “What did you do, how did it work, what did you learn, what do you want to try next time?”
Helpful questions include:
- So, what will you do now, and when? What else will you do?
- What could stop you moving forward? How will you overcome this?
- How can you keep yourself motivated?
- When do you need to review progress? Daily, weekly, monthly?
Review and hold them accountable: Decide on a date when you’ll both review his progress. This will give him some accountability, and allow him to modify his approach if the original plan isn’t working.
5. Thinking shift / Transformational Paradigm Shift.
What thinking shift needs to happen to help us achieve our goals?
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Einstein
Our paradigms have a powerful effect on the way we see and interpret the world around us. When you feel stuck with a problem, become annoyed, and are tempted to quit, realize that it’s because you are operating with a fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset. At the most fundamental level, the problem is with the paradigm you use. As Stephen Covey rightly said, “Paradigms are inseparable from character. Being is seeing.” What this means is that the solution to some of our problems will require that we first transform our character and paradigm. In essence, they will require that we change and become different!
Many times, the way we see the problem is the problem. And to remedy that, we need a new level of thinking.
Again, here we focus on transformation or paradigm shift. We want to change our mindsets in ways that will both allow us to solve this problem but also prevent future ones. What paradigm shift needs to happen to help us achieve our goals? If we have the wrong paradigm, it doesn’t matter how hard we work. It’s like trying to use the map of the city of Los Angeles to go from position A to B while, in fact, you are in Houston. No matter how hard you work in Houston using the wrong map (of LA) you will never get to your destination!
6. Help – Get the help needed to accomplish your goals and aspirations
What helpful capabilities, systems, and structures will you need to achieve your goals and aspirations?
What capabilities are necessary to build and maintain to achieve my goals and aspirations? And, What management systems and structures are necessary to operate to build and maintain the key capabilities?
Often, we cannot achieve our goals without first changing. Being comes before doing. Some capacities may need to be developed in us.
Also, we cannot accomplish great things alone. We may need other to come along and help provide skills and talents we lack. In this case, we may need to recruit capacities by enlisting the help of others. In either case, we need to think about the management systems necessary to build and support these key capabilities.
3 approaches to using the GROWTH framework
As a Facilitator: The great and highly recommended way to use the GROWTH framework is for the coach to assume and act like he/she is not an expert in the client’s situation. In fact, the model assumes that the coach isn’t an expert in the client’s situation. That means the coach must act as a facilitator, a guide who is listening, questioning, and making suggestions or giving advice. It is best to use motivational interviewing skills such as open questions, affirmations, reflections, and summaries (mnemonic is OARS). It’s more effective to help people draw their own conclusions rather than simply telling them. People are more likely to carry out the decisions they come up with.
As an Expert: While serving as a facilitator is often the best way to approach coaching, there will be circumstances where the coach has a lot of expert knowledge about the subject which the novice client or mentee doesn’t have. For example, if you serve as a team leader, you’ll often have expert knowledge to give. As a team leader, you’re also responsible for guiding the team to make the best decisions and usually don’t have all the time needed to lead a novice as a facilitator.
Apply it to yourself: An excellent way to practice using the GROWTH framework is to apply it to your own problems and challenges. As you apply it to yourself and use it to get yourself “unstuck”, you will learn how to better help other people. Then become a student of coaching and take your own notes as you practice.
As you coach yourself and others through difficult problems, your ultimate long-term goal should be to develop in yourself and in them a growth mindset that believes all things are possible. The GROWTH framework helps you on that journey.