A Coaching Model Created by Vickie Echols
(Leadership and Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
When you know your ‘why’, you have tapped into the power of purpose. This model for coaching is designed to give leaders in education a framework to ultimately support student success, while also supporting a balanced and fulfilled life each day.
In small groups and one-on-one sessions, leaders will first DESIGN : define goals, establish reality, explore obstacles and options, and design or review their plan of action for maintaining a balanced outcome. Next they will DO what it takes to get going. REFLECTION follows to glean what can be learned from the actions and intents. Then they RESPOND in active steps which correct errors or rinse and repeat the plan until their goal is accomplished.
The model guides leaders to learn and grow on a thriving school campus, which is focused on student success. The power of this model comes from the evidence-based premise that 1) Growth occurs from brain waves focusing on a continuous improvement cycle; and 2) Examining echos or reflections throughout the coaching process , increases capacity for greater amounts of growth!
This model is intended for Leaders in Education who work with adults to support students and build capacity for learning in a school, including principals, lead teachers, directors, instructional coaches.
Educating students is a joyful experience, but it can also feel like a very difficult journey. Leaders in education face many challenges on a daily basis in their work of supporting the adults who impact student learning. Professional development to meet these challenges, that includes leadership coaching, is clearly beneficial! Coaching leaders has a dynamic ripple effect which can enrich the lives of everyone involved with that person.
During leadership coaching sessions, my approach is to use the e-GROW Coaching Model. This is an evidence-based framework, which brings greater clarity and attention to the natural cycle of change and the power of reflection. The model is built on two premises:
- Growth occurs from brain waves calmly focusing on a continuous improvement cycle; and
- Examining echos or reflections throughout the coaching process, increases capacity for greater amounts of growth!
Understanding how our brain works can be a mysterious journey, but the good news is that it can change at any age! A widely held belief is that brains grow only during childhood, but research reveals that brains have the potential to change at any age 1 if steps are taken to tap into the energy of growth. Research in the field of neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to reorganize itself) has revealed the fact that it is possible to significantly change our mental patterns to achieve a different outcome.2
The e-GROW Coaching Model offers a framework for change through a continuous improvement cycle, which is based on the latest brain research. To go deeper on this subject, check out globally recognized author and authority, Dr. Michael Merzenich, who describes how the brain remodels itself,3 in his book, Soft-Wired 4. Linda Graham’s review of the book also offers greater insights into how brain plasticity impacts this process.
Brain Plasticity and the Power to Rewire
Luckily leaders or coaches don’t have to know exactly how the brain works in order to rewire the brain during a series of coaching sessions! The coach provides a safe, risk-free environment where affirmations and challenges are allowed, all within a consistently structured space conducive for the brain to change – for neurons to fire – and ultimately rewire for greater success.
What actually changes in the brain are the strengths of the connections that are engaged together – moment by moment over time. As a person selects activities that work, and corrects errors of what does not work along the way, the neural connections grow stronger with each attempt. Going through these rewiring change cycles – we call attempts, practice, iteration – that include constant error correction – causes permanent changes in the connections of the brain and ultimately a more successful outcome: GROWTH!
Continuous Improvement Cycle
In addition to the power of brain science, the e-GROW Coaching Model is informed by the work of W. Edwards Deming’s , continuous improvement cycle. This cycle supports change 5 for the better through a slow and steady process of steps. The philosophy of “Kaizen,” a Japanese word which translated means “change for the better”6, is also reflected in the model to support continuous improvement of practice and ongoing incremental growth. Although the continual improvement model is used most often with organizational change, it has the potential to also powerfully support the individual growth of a leader.
The e-GROW model
The e-GROW model incorporates the continual improvement cycle because it leads to permanent changes in the brain. The model follows these steps: 1) DESIGN, 2) DO, 3) REFLECT and 4) RESPOND.
DESIGNING with a coach
During the DESIGN stage, Sir John Whitmore’s GROW model7 is inserted. This model focuses on learning through experiences with the power of reflection, making intentional choices and pursuing them. It is deservedly one of the most established and successful coaching models, and includes these four steps which are outlined on later pages.
- Establish and define the Goal,
- Examine the Current Reality,
- Explore Options and Obstacles, and
- Establish a Will and Way forward.
DOING on your own
In this stage the client implements the improvement or problem-solving plan by actually DOING some sort of action that was designed in the previous stage. The implementation of the plan is actually tried out – attempted – practiced . Preferably the actions are carried out with some sort of accountability in place.
REFLECTING with a coach
In the REFLECTING stage, the client meets with the coach in a follow up session. The coach offers a safe space for the client to “listen for the echos” as they revisit the actions and attempts of their designed plan. The client creates new understandings – or brain connections – through reflective conversation and a recycling of these steps: 1) Establish the Goal, 2) Examine the Current Reality, 3) Explore Options and Obstacles, and 4) Establish a Will and Way forward.
RESPONDING on your own
In this stage the client implements the new ideas which resulted from the previous session. The client uses the power of reflection to RESPOND with some sort of action that was designed in the previous stage. New or adjusted actions are tried out – attempted – practiced. Again some sort of accountability will increase awareness and follow through. One of the goals of this stage is for the client to become more aware of the differences between responding and reacting. The actions that take place during this stage are undergirded with neural connections from the conversation which reinforced an understanding of what actions resulted in success and failure.
Graphic representations of the GROW model
Establish the GOAL
First explore the behavior that your client wants to change, and then guide them to structure this change as a goal they want to achieve. Listen for SMART goal factors 8 and use questions to determine these details. Goal setting will take place for the cycle of improvement and for each separate session. Consider using a coaching tool to nail down a clear goal 9
Questions to consider:
Focus on Outcome
- What is it that you really, REALLY want to work on?
- What do you want? What is the aim for this discussion?
- How would you like it to be? What does that look like?
- What will you be saying to yourself?
- What is a specific outcome you’re looking for?
- How will you know that you have achieved this goal?
- How is your goal the right size to be working on? Too big? Too small? How might it fit
into smaller goals or a larger goal?
- What will this enable you to do?
- Why is this goal important to you?
- What will other people be saying to you?
- What will you have that you don’t have now?
- Imagine 3 months from now, all obstacles are removed and you have achieved this:
What do you see/hear/feel? What new elements are in place? What is different?
- How is this goal aligned with your overall plan / life vision / life style?
- How is this goal in line with your personal values /overall career objectives /team's
- When you think about achieving this goal, how does it make you feel?
- How will you know that the problem or issue is improved?
Examine the current REALITY
Too often, people try to solve a problem or reach a goal without fully considering their starting point, and often they’re missing some information that they need in order to reach their goal effectively.
Useful questions to consider:
- What is happening now (what, who, when, and how often)?
- What is the effect or result of this?
- Have you already taken any steps towards your goal?
- How will making this change affect other parts of your life? What else might you need
to to make this goal happen?
- What is happening at the moment?
- How important is this to you? On a scale of 1–10, if an ideal situation is 10, what
number are you at now? What number would you like to be at?
- How do you feel about this?
- What impact is this having on you?
- What’s on your shoulders?
- How does this impact other areas of your life?
- What are you doing that takes you towards your goal?
- What are you doing that is getting in the way of your goal?
- How much …? How many …? Who else does it affect?
Explore Options and Obstacles
Once your client has explored the current reality, it’s time to determine all of the possible options for reaching the goal.
Useful questions to consider:
- What could you do? What ideas do you have?
- What alternatives do you have? Is there anything else?
- If there were anything else, what would it be?
- What has worked in the past?
- What steps could you take?
- Who could help you with this?
- Where could you find out the information? How could you do that?
- How can you start this goal? What can you do to maintain this goal?
- WHAT might you have to give up/stop doing to achieve this goal?What's good about your current situation? What's the benefit of staying right where
you are? How can you keep those good aspects while still making this change?
- If there was something important around achieving this goal (to help you succeed, or
that could get in the way) that you haven't mentioned yet, what would it be?
- WHO will you have to BE to achieve this goal?
- Does this goal conflict with any other goals or objectives?
- In what ways do you have complete control over achieving it?
- What , if any, is the pain, frustration, discomfort, for you of not achieving this goal?
Establish the Will and the Way
After examining the current reality and exploring the options, your client will have a good idea of how they can achieve the goal. The final step is to get establish commitment to specific actions in order to move forward toward the goal.
- What will you do? How will you do that?
- When will you do it?
- Who will you talk to?
- Where will you go?
- What RESOURCES do you already have to help you achieve your goal? What could
help you meet these needs? (eg. things, support from people, contacts, personal
qualities, knowledge, skills, money, time etc).
- What RESOURCES do you NEED to help you achieve your goal? What could help
you get these needs met?
- Is there anything you need to put in place before that?
- How committed are you to taking that action?
- What will it take for you to commit to that?
Life is an echo. What you send out – comes back. What you sow, you reap. What you give, you get. What you see in others, exists in you. ~Zig Ziggler
1 (2010, July 30). The Brain: Changing the adult mind through the power of plasticity …. Retrieved November 3, 2017, from
2 (n.d.). Brain Plasticity Science, Neuroplasticity and the Brain | BrainHQ from …. Retrieved November 3, 2017
3 (n.d.). Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your …. Retrieved November 3, 2017
4 (n.d.). Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your …. Retrieved November 3, 2017 5 (n.d.). W. Edwards Deming – Wikipedia. Retrieved November 2, 2017, from
6 (n.d.). Kaizen | Define Kaizen at Dictionary.com. Retrieved November 2, 2017, from
7 (n.d.). Grow Model | Sir John Whitmore’s Grow Coaching Model Framework …. Retrieved November 2, 2017 8 (n.d.). What does it REALLY mean to create a SMART Goal? ‹ http …. Retrieved November 3, 2017
9 (n.d.). 21 Questions to Extraordinary Goal-Setting | Coaching Tools from The …. Retrieved November 3, 2017
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