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Coach through a crisis with the GROW model

Jan 18, 2023
By: Tom Cox

When you think of a coach, what comes to mind? For many, it’s likely tied to sports. While sports coaches are tasked with the development and performance of athletes, in the business world, coaching is something quite different. And, I believe we all have the capacity to coach and help each other.

So, what is coaching in the business world? It can be boiled down to three basic behaviors:

  1. Active listening
  2. Asking good questions
  3. Allowing others to process and arrive at their own conclusions

Sports coaches are likely better characterized as teachers or mentors. They direct, teach and give answers, while coaching in our world is more about helping people arrive at their own answers.

When I contemplate how coaching can be helpful in times of crisis, I envision a stressful moment between two colleagues. Recently, clients from the healthcare industry have been sharing that due to long hours, fatigue and worry, stress levels have risen and commensurately, so have conflicts.

The challenge with stressful times is that we tend to revert to our autopilot behaviors governed by the behavior centers of our brains. Often called the lizard brain, it’s where our fight, flight, freeze and fawn responses originate. When fear and worry arise, they can stimulate an emotional response — sometimes very strong. This can lead to us expressing these emotions in ways that have an impact on those around us.

This is where coaching comes in. Regardless of levels within relationships, being an intentional listener and coach can help the other person de-escalate, process and come up with a way forward.

One method is called the GROW model of coaching. This is highly effective in situational coaching, as in crisis-elevated moments. Adapted from Max Landsberg’s book, “The Tao of Coaching,” the model is simple and easy to follow.

When someone approaches you with a problem, follow these four steps:

  1. G: Ask the person what outcome, or goal, they would like to create.
  2. R: Confirm the reality of the situation (ask them to consider not just their reality, but the perspectives of those around them).
  3. O: Ask them what options they can envision to achieve the outcome and then have them identify the best one.
  4. W: After identifying the best one, ask them to outline the way forward and the next steps they will take.

If you are willing to support and offer a listening ear, you can help others let off steam and arrive at a better way to handle the situation, or others like it, going forward.

Keep in mind, this is also not necessarily a one-time solution. Coaching is a process and if you follow it consistently, you will deepen relationships and can be quite effective at helping others, even in times of crisis.

How Wipfli can help

Wipfli’s leadership development programs help leaders at every level cultivate a leadership mindset that empowers others to thrive. Learn more about how we help clients with people, process and strategy on our organizational performance consulting web page.

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Tom Cox
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