Using the G.R.O.W. model

Drs. Joel C. Small and Edwin McDonald outline how the GROW coaching tool can enhance individual and team performance.

Drs. Joel C. Small and Edwin McDonald offer a new coaching tool

Sir John Whitmore first introduced the GROW model in 1992. Since that time, coaches and corporate leadership teams throughout the world have embraced this simple and effective model.

The GROW model is useful as a personal tool as well as a coaching tool for individual and team performance enhancement.  GROW is an acronym for Goals, current Reality, Options, and Will. For doctors who ask, “How can I get my team to be more productive and accountable? “this model may be the answer to their prayers.


Having extreme clarity regarding a goal, whether it be achieving a specific task, correcting a behavior, or creating one’s preferred future, is critical to the success of the model. Leaders create a scenario for success by supporting team members in creating their own self-defined goals. Team leaders, trained in basic coaching skills, can assist individuals or teams in identifying and clarifying goals by remaining non-directive while asking probing questions intended to assist others in identifying and clarifying their goals.

*Note: Occasionally, it may be preferable to change the order of the GROW model for the sake of clarity. For example, if a team member is unaware of a specific negative behavior or attitude that requires correction, the coach/leader should share their observations regarding the current reality before addressing the goal.

Current reality

As stated above, if the conversation is remedial in nature and the objective is to correct a specific behavior, we may need to introduce our perspective. If our input is required, we should address the issue in terms of how the current behavior is affecting the team, patient care, productivity, etc. and avoid making our comments a personal affront to the team member. Otherwise, the comments may be perceived as an emotional threat to the recipient.

There is current research in neuroscience that supports this approach. Research has shown that the human brain releases cortisol, a powerful neurotransmitter that creates the flight response when a person experiences emotional threats. When people are experiencing the flight response, they are seldom present enough to engage in a productive conversation.

Furthermore, disgruntled team members may become very negative and emotional when describing a current reality. When they become highly emotional, they are experiencing a cortisol-dominated reactive state and are unable to engage in a productive conversation. This is a critical juncture that requires converting their emotions from negative (cortisol-mediated) to a more positive and calmer (dopamine-mediated) state. The best approach is to listen attentively while acknowledging their perspective and emotions as presented. Then, make this simple request;

“I have heard, and I understand what you do not want. Now please tell me what you DO want.”

This simple statement can shift the nature of the conversation from a negative one to a calmer, more productive, and goal oriented one. Again, neuroscience has shown that when we focus on images that are positive and desirable, our brain releases dopamine, another neurotransmitter that produces calm and enhances focus.

Once we shift the person’s emotional state to a more engaged and productive one, we must remain focused on their preferred future rather than returning to the negative aspects of their current reality, keeping them in a more productive mindset. We can ask powerful, probing questions that help create deep thought and bring forth words and images that clearly define the goal they wish to accomplish. We can strengthen their resolve to achieve their goal by asking questions related to the benefits they will derive.


Once we have created a calm and focused mindset, and clearly defined goal, we can collaborate with our team member(s) to define various options to achieving the goal. It is best to let the team member(s) give their thoughts first, so they are not influenced by our choices and authority.

Some team members who lack self-confidence must take baby steps toward achieving their goal while others can move forward rapidly. The final steps for achieving the goal must be designed with this reality in mind.


This final step is designed to determine the degree of commitment to achieving the goal. In general, a goal that is extremely clear and viewed as achievable, is more likely to produce a high degree of commitment.

If someone expresses a moderate-to-low level of commitment to achieving the goal, we may want to ask what would need to happen to increase their level of commitment. This discussion may lead to further coaching sessions designed to identify and resolve individual blind spots and/or self-limiting beliefs.

To properly weather the storms of leadership, clinicians must have the right coaching tool. Drs. Small and McDonald share some more secrets to being a successful leader here:

Drs. Joel C. Small and Edwin (Mac) McDonald have a total of over 75 years of dental practice experience. Both doctors are trained and certified Executive Leadership Coaches. They have joined forces to create Line of Sight Coaching, a business dedicated to helping their fellow dentists discover a better and more enjoyable way to create and lead a highly productive clinical dental practice. Through their work, clients experience a better work/life balance, find more joy in their work, and develop a strong practice culture and brand that positively impact their bottom line. To receive their free ebook, 7 Surprising Steps to Grow Your Practice Through Leadership, go to

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