Empowering employees through the GROW model

Empowering employees through the GROW model



Taking responsibility means becoming fully aware of the situation in which we live and committing ourselves to actions that depend on us.

Throughout the process of self-empowerment, it is essential to know that we have a choice. However, as soon as we have the perception that we depend solely on elements beyond our control (e.g.: I can't help it!), as soon as responsibility is perceived as a burden, we deprive ourselves of any possibility of choice and therefore of empowerment. Our actions will be experienced as imposed by others or by the context. Karpman thus speaks of the posture of the victim.

The analogy that captures the essence of the empowering posture is that of the surfer. Like a surfer, we do not control the waves or the wind (level 3), we have no power over the choices of other surfers2 (level 2), but we have moment by moment the choice of our trajectory, of how we react to the elements (level 1).

There are, of course, cases of imposition by force, restriction of the freedoms of others or abuse of power. However, these cases cannot generate commitment and responsibility.


Since it is essential that the process of empowerment is self-generated (individual awareness and conscious choice of commitment), we cannot impose empowerment on our employees. We can only facilitate it by accompanying them.

In the professional context, it is the manager-coach posture that is most likely to encourage this process of empowerment of our employees. This posture aims to help the employee grow through questioning and active listening. In this way, employees find their own solutions to the challenges they face. They commit themselves to actions that they themselves have designed and deemed appropriate. The manager-coach refrains from directly solving the problem in favour of helping the employee to develop his or her skills, so that he or she learns to manage not only the current challenge but also those to come.

2.1 Empowering employees through the GROW model

The manager-coach can facilitate the empowerment of his employees by using the GROW model:

  • Goal - objective: what is your goal?
  • Reality: what is the current situation? What is dependent on you? What is dependent on others? What is dependent on the context? What resources do you have to deal with this situation?
  • Options: what are your options?
  • Will - commitment :

o What will you do? What are you committing to?

o When will you do it?

o How will you keep me informed of the results?

2.2 Following up on accountability

Once the employee has made a commitment, the manager-coach can then come back to him/her during the follow-up at the agreed date and reinforce his/her accountability by asking the following questions

  • What happened?
  • What do you learn from it?
  • What do you want to do with it? What are the next steps?

It is fundamental that the manager-coach maintains a posture of active listening without blame, regardless of the result achieved by the employee. If a new challenge arises, the manager-coach can once again help the N-1 to become aware of and take responsibility for the situation so that they can formulate a new commitment:

  • What will you do? What are you committing to?
  • When will you do it?
  • How will you keep me informed of the results?

The cycle of accountability and accountability follow-up can therefore be endless. However, it is the responsibility of the manager-coach to know when it is necessary to introduce feedback into this cycle, either through feedback leading to more learning (GROW feedback) or through developmental feedback (COIN feedback) or even through reframing, which can lead to the termination of the collaboration; being accountable also means knowing how to separate.

2.3 GROW empowering feedback

The traditional managerial culture is based on the belief that the manager helps his or her employees to improve by correcting their mistakes, through the practice of rigorous, frequent and frank feedback. However, neuroscience studies3 indicate that the opposite is true. There is evidence that error-correcting feedback can undermine the performance and excellence of those who receive it.

GROW feedback provides a model for learning and empowerment.


As a manager-coach in empowering feedback, we have a dual role:

  • To facilitate our employee's self-generated learning and how this learning will be used in the future;
  • To provide our perspective and feedback on our employee's performance, focusing of course on what worked and possible options for the future.

2.4 Empowering development feedback: the COIN method

So far, we have presented approaches that focus primarily on the individual employee's approach. It is the employee who identifies a challenge and finds his or her own solutions, who commits to action and to giving us feedback during which we can provide empowering feedback.

However, as a manager-coach, we may find ourselves in the situation of having to point out employee behaviour that causes us problems.

In an empowerment process, two steps are recommended:

  1. Start by making yourself accountable,
  2. Address the employee using the COIN method

This acronym defines a process of managerial feedback inspired by Non-Violent Communication, in 4 phases allowing to structure an exchange which aims at sharing one's feelings and needs, without falling into the blame or the temptation to take away one's responsibility:

  • CONTEXT: I describe the factual context;
  • OBSERVATION: I share the facts I have observed;
  • IMPACT: I describe the impact of the behaviour (no room for blame, use "I", this can include his/her feelings);
  • NEXT: I ask for a clear agreement on a change in the situation or behaviour, making the employee responsible

Example: for the last 4 months (context) I have received your monthly report 1 to 4 days late (observation), I am in a situation of being at odds with our company regarding the consolidated reporting (impact). I would like us to find a common working method that will allow me to provide the consolidated reporting on time; what do you propose? (next).