Posted by: mikeduckett | April 10, 2017


sun-flower_3314Let’s remember what we’re focusing on in this mini-series of blogs about the GROW model, which is used as a basic coaching tool to effectively set the agenda for conversations with people you want  to help develop. At the very least it will give you a framework to plan a conversation when you know one of your staff faces a challenge and wants to rise to that challenge.

Critically, also it will help you avoid having to be the ‘solutioneer’ (my term for someone who’s job it is to engineer a solution) rather than the true leader!

To remind you, the steps we’ve covered so far are:

Goal: Clarifying exactly what the objective / goal is that they would like to achieve

Reality: What is the current state of affairs? How far away are they from achieving the objective / goal?

N.B. So far so good but it is very important to remember that the acronym spells GROW and not RGOW. There is a good reason to stick to this order of affairs as letting someone spend their first thoughts on what’s wrong (‘R’) will only help them reinforce the issues. Starting with a view of what they’d like to have happen (‘G’) gives them a better chance of seeing creative solutions when they get to the next step.

Having heard what this person wants to achieve and then how far they are from that, the next step is to think about how to fill that gap. This is the creative, solutioneering opportunity. However, if the other person is to develop and grow (pun intended) the opportunity for fixing things is theirs – not yours.

One of the most requested reprints from Harvard Business Review is the 1970’s paper, “who’s got the monkey?”.   The authors used a great metaphor about how employees with a problem  – a monkey on their back – will, without thinking, try to get their monkey to leap onto the manager’s back, who by the end of the day has loads of monkeys plus his own to feed!

So now we come to Options.options-396267_1280

The question is, what courses of action does your employee see for solving the problem? There are many ways to facilitate and help them find potential solutions, depending on whether this is an informal  5-minute chat or a more involved meeting.

Often a good start is to employ one of the standard brainstorming processes and ask them to list all the possible courses of action. This must be done without stopping to criticise any idea, no matter how stupid it sounds; just list what they COULD do.

So what’s your role at this point? In fact you’re playing the role of facilitator, helping them do the thinking and stopping them writing off ideas. They may quickly get to what they think is an exhaustive list of one, maybe two, choices. Here you can probably add a third to the list i.e. Do nothing. This is a possibility they probably won’t have mentioned so it will serve simply to start them thinking again. Or you could throw in a ridiculous idea, just to get the thinking and the list going again.

For example, I once worked with the managing director of a company that had instituted ‘dress-down Friday’  and become very concerned about how standards had slipped too far, with people turning up for meetings in jeans and T shirts. He was trying to decide how to nip this in the bud without being dictatorial, even though he’d mentioned it to his team before.

His only options as he saw it initially were:

  1. Re-define what smart casual meant in his eyes and hope they took it on board this time
  2. Lay down the law and tell them how it was going to be and what the punishment would be if they continued to turn up under dressed.

Having added the 3rd i.e. ‘Do nothing’ we rapidly got back to the ideas drying up. Then I just suggested he conduct the next meeting in his underwear (I don’t know why I had that thought!) and made him put it on the list. Of course he fell about laughing at the ridiculousness of the idea but he then wondered how they would feel if he did hold the meeting in his dirty gardening clothes. Apparently he did that and it allowed a serious point to be made light heartedly and new agreement reached.

So can you keep the monkeys where they belong and only feed your own?


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