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The IGROW Model has been successfully used in many different industries and coaching environments by managers and leaders at all levels. The method is very straight forward, but does take practice to master. Before we begin, the IGROW Model is intended for use during the performance coaching conversation where a skill based issue is identified and you are looking to achieve a behavior change or performance improvement. If you find that the issue is more of a will based issue your approach should be more of a counseling one. You can read more about the differences in Coaching and Counseling in an additional article.

The IGROW Coaching Model for Employee Development

Now that we've established that our employee is faced with a skill based issue, we can begin learning how to apply the IGROW Model during our coaching conversation to achieve consistent performance improvement. 

The IGROW Coaching Model - Issue

Let's start with the first phase of the IGROIGROWW Model: 'I' for Issue. In order to ensure you and your employee are on the same page, it is always recommended to start the coaching conversation by detailing the issue or performance improvement opportunity the employee is displaying. This can be done as simply as stating "I'd like to discuss your performance and the challenge you've been having meeting your monthly sales targets." Be sure to be clear, concise, and positive as you introduce the coaching conversation. The issue should always include clearly measurable performance indicators such as sales targets, customer satisfaction ratings, dollars collected, percent to goal, etc. Speaking in terms of measurements and presenting the issue up front, ensures that the employee is focused on where they need to make a performance improvement and that they are prepared for the coaching conversation.

The IGROW Coaching Model - Goal

Next let's talk about the next step in the IGROW Model: 'G' for Goal. Presenting your goal for the coaching conversation will help to establish boundaries and will focus on the end result you hope to achieve through a performance improvement. A good example of a goal statement would be "I'd like for us to discuss the challenges you've been having so that we can determine how we can work together to overcome this opportunity." This statement is clear and shows that the employee will be given support in working through their challenges. It is key that you establish a goal for the coaching conversation so that you are on the same page.

The IGROW Coaching Model - Root Cause

Now that we've set up the coaching conversation, it's time to get the employee more engaged. Often times young managers make the mistake of doing most of the talking. While this can be seen as controlling the interaction and as evidence of their authority as the manager, often times the employee will not view it in this manner. After all, your goal for the coaching conversation is not to establish your role, that was done long ago, but to enact a positive change in behavior and ultimately a performance improvement. One of the most successful ways to do so is to encourage the employee to examine their behavior. We call this phase of the IGROW Model the 'R' or looking for the Root Cause. This is a crucial portion of the coaching conversation as you will gain valuable insight for use in later areas of the coaching conversation. Even more critically, you provide the employee with the ability to own their own performance and development. When an employee is engaged and feels ownership for their performance, making a course correction is a far less daunting task.

During this portion of the coaching conversation, you should encourage the employee to explain why they believe they are experiencing this particular challenge. Eliciting the root cause can be done in a number of ways, one of the most effective being the use of the 5 Why's. Begin by asking the employee what challenges might be playing into their performance issue. This can be done as simply as "Let's talk about what might be contributing to your challenges meeting sales targets. Can you help me understand why you've been struggling recently so that we can work through it together." Now the employee will likely explain a surface issue that may not tell the whole story. This is why the 5 Why tool is employed here. To get at the true root cause you may have to dig beyond the employee's initial thought. Keep in mind during the Root Cause portion of the conversation, the employee should be doing most of the talking with you asking open ended leading questions to gather as much background as you can. This will help direct your next steps.

Additionally during the Root Cause phase, you should be focused on the behaviors or skills that the employee may be struggling with. Managers and coaches have a tendency to focus on high level facts such as metrics and drivers, but to truly achieve a performance improvement you have to understand what behaviors are driving the issue so that you can work to make those same behaviors a success enabler. Some examples you might glean from the employees feedback could be, not utilizing tools on the job (call models, flow charts, procedure manuals, software, or even their peers), not truly engaging their customers, skipping the planning stage prior to their sales calls, etc.

The IGROW Coaching Model - Options 

Now that you've identified the behavior and skills that are contributing to the performance improvement opportunity, you will be able to work with the employee to determine the 'O' or Options that are available to them. This phase of the IGROW Model and conversation should be focused on creating a plan to develop a skill that will lead to a performance improvement.

Depending on the underlying opportunity you uncovered, the steps of the plan will differ but let's talk about some options you can provide. A great option to learn or develop a skill is any training that your company or organization may provide. While this can provide great benefits, it is not always a feasible option. Other, less expensive options include, doing a side by side (peering and watching) with another employee who exhibits the skill your employee is trying to learn, role playing, and reading materials. During this phase of the IGROW Model, keep in mind that Adult Learning Theory tells us that adults learn in three distinct ways, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. When able, employing all of these methods will often produce the best results.

The IGROW Coaching Model - What's Next 

Now that you've settled on some options for learning, what's next? Well the 'W' phase of the IGROW Model is What's Next. During this phase of the coaching conversation you should focus on creating a plan to leverage the agreed upon options. Many times a Development Action Plan is used. While the DAP is talked about in further detail in another article, we will stress some of the high points here. It is crucial that you collaborate with your employee to determine the plan but you should never write the plan yourself. Remember that you want the employee to own their performance improvement and taking the time to plan out their next steps enables them to do so. This plan should provide them with opportunities to learn the skill or behavior, to practice it, and to formally receive feedback on their progress.

Now that you have discussed the issue, outlined your goal, determined the root causes, provided options, and settled on what's next, it is imperative that you consistently follow up with the employee to check in on their progress. Doing so will show your support for their hard work and will keep the employee focused on making a performance improvement.