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The GROW Model: Coaching Conversations As A Successful Retention and Performance Strategy

In any organization, growth is not just important – it’s necessary. There are several ways to establish a strong learning culture. At Roundtable, we’re here to point you in the right direction. It starts with human-to-human experiences.

A voracious appetite for learning is a sure way to achieve goals in the workplace. However, many corporate leaders find themselves frustrated by a perceived lack of hunger amongst their teams. We found that beneath the veneer of apathy is much-needed leadership engagement. 

We all have coaches we remember. If you retrace your experiences, you may realize how big an impact they had on your success. In the corporate world, inquiry is largely underrated. Facilitating employee growth starts with asking the right questions.

Addressing Retention and Performance

Forbes reported that between July and November 2022, more than 4 million Americans quit their jobs each month. Work culture and leadership were a big part of the top contributing factors that negatively impacted retention rates.

You may be wondering, are underperformance and turnover generational issues? Yes and no. The answer isn’t so easy.

Just last summer, the zeitgeist of social media introduced ‘quiet quitting’, a phenomenon coined on TikTok that overcame the workforce in 2022. While it had little impact on leadership practices, quiet quitting encouraged employees to perform only the bare minimum of their responsibilities instead of quitting outright. Underperformance records soared.

Research points to more than just a universal rejection of hustle culture, a glorified, relentless work style that says if you are not hustling, you are failing. On the other side of the coin is the need for leadership strategies that address work culture issues. The psychology behind creating an improved workplace culture starts with determining why the desire for a shift in culture exists in the first place. Employees want to feel seen and heard.

Gallop reported a decline in engagement and employer satisfaction among remote Gen-Z and younger millennials below the age of 35. Their answer? Managers must learn how to have conversations to help employees reduce disengagement and burnoutIn fact, they recommend that managers have one meaningful conversation per week with each team member.

There’s no denying that the global pandemic impacted social attitudes toward work. However, this cultural shift comes with real consequences for organizations. According to Apollo Technical, it costs an employer an average of 33% of an employee’s yearly salary for their exit. Ouch!

So, what could be worse than costly turnover rates? Quiet quitters make up at least 50% of the workforce. Underperforming employees may be the first sign that leadership needs a new strategy.

Successful executives must increasingly supplement their industry and functional expertise with a general capacity for learning—and they must develop that capacity in the people they supervise.

Harvard Business Review

So, how do we develop another’s capacity to learn? Coaching conversations inspired by the GROW Model give employees options to reach their goals and create accountability for growth and development by establishing a mutually beneficial plan forward.

The GROW Coaching Model

There’s a clear difference between asking someone if they like food and what their favorite childhood meal was. The latter sparks a flow of conversation that welcomes follow-up questions and creates a connection. The GROW Coaching Model serves as a framework for selecting the right questions to build connections that improve employee retention and inspire new performance goals.

First published in his book Coaching for Performance in 1992, Sir John Whitmore’s GROW Model is arguably one of the most widely-used methods in organizational leadership today. Let’s take a look at the acronym’s four key steps:


Want to see how it works? Here’s a fun leadership scenario to help paint a bigger picture.

Ben’s resume and initial performance at work was impressive, but he tends to check out these days. Although his tasks are completed, they often display minimal effort. Someone even saw him searching for other jobs during the workday. Ben is a quiet quitter. Leadership knows something has to change. They set up a meeting with Ben over coffee and structure the coaching conversation like this:

Grow Model Graphic 2

Ben will walk away from this coaching conversation with a clear goal and support from leadership. His performance will improve and his likelihood of staying within the organization is much higher.

Want to hear some more examples? Check out the 40 Best GROW Model Coaching Questions from Positive Psychology.

The Benefits

The process of inquiry is an effective approach to coaching conversations, so what are the real benefits?

For one, conversational coaching elevates company culture by empowering employees to find solutions. The philosophy behind the GROW Model is that it prioritizes transformational coaching over transactional coaching. Transactional coaching is based on general feedback, while transformational coaching inspires an emotional commitment to a goal. When leaders ask constructive questions, employees have the opportunity to self-reflect and create solutions on their own terms.

Coaching conversations are a successful leadership approach because it establishes a workplace culture of continual progress. Who doesn’t want a more motivated and committed workforce? Create a strong company culture through collaborative and thoughtful conversation, where performance expectations become a shared goal.

Successful conversations get everyone on the same page, and that goes for company alignment as well. Gallup explains that employees and teams who most align with their company culture consistently perform higher on internal performance metrics than those who least align

Retention and performance go hand and hand. Conversational coaching helps motivate employees to stay in your organization and perform better while they’re there. The higher the engagement, the stronger the performance.

When To Use It

There are certain things coaching is the right answer for. In order to create a vibrant workforce that performs with goals in mind, knowing when to use this framework is the first step to a better retention and performance strategy.  

Conversational coaching is not intended for technical skills. Technical skills are acquired through training. Coaching is best used when there is potential to change behavior. Coachability is determined by whether employees have it within themselves to change their behavior and attitude towards work.

Conversational coaching should be used when leaders want to incentivize productivity and performance. Conversational coaching is also suited well for correcting employee judgment. For example: “Why did you choose to do it this way?” Questions help shape conversations that lead to collaborative solutions structured by supportive leadership.

Harvard Business Review explains,

Of course, workplace coaching usually takes place outside of formal coaching sessions. Most often, it happens in brief exchanges, when a manager might respond to a request for help by posing a single question, such as “What have you already thought of?” or “What really matters here?” When more of those interactions occur—when you notice your managers growing increasingly inquisitive, asking good questions, and working from the premise that they don’t have all the answers—you’ll know you’re on the right track.

It’s the small, day-to-day moments that make the greatest changes. A simple way to think about coaching is to structure the conversation. The simplicity of the GROW Model is why it’s useful.

All in all, strong leadership with a genuine interest in everyone’s success has a trickle-down effect.

Putting Into Practice

Practice makes perfect. The GROW model is a framework that can be used in all industries. Here are some final tips for putting coaching conversations to the test.

Company culture is not just a set of philosophies that the workforce subscribes to. Think of your workplace culture as a verb. Forbes advises to schedule both departmental and individual meetings asking employees for feedback consistently to build a positive workplace culture.

Effective leadership starts with inquiry. The more you ask, the more you know!

Failed relationships often stem from a lack of communication. Businesses are not exempt from the consequences of poor people skills, and nurturing talent at your organization is best practiced through transparent and consistent dialogue.

While quiet quitting is a trend that continues to permeate the workforce, the GROW model can restructure how leaders influence company culture. Improving retention and performance is achieved through incremental steps of leadership engagement. Choose your words wisely!

As you navigate the 2023 workplace, incorporating coaching conversations as a performance and retention strategy will transform your organization. When practiced the right way, identifying a common goal, assessing the reality, evaluating options, and inspiring willpower in others can all happen in a single conversation. Coach people to lean into their potential. 

Want to learn more strategies for improving retention? Learn more from us here.

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