Growth Coaching United Kingdom

The Growth Coaching Approach

It has been argued that organisations are networks of people relating to each other via conversations to achieve common purposes and goals (Cross & Parker, 2004; Jackson & McKergow, 2007). Such a complex adaptive systems view of organisations highlights the importance of conversational quality. Indeed it has been said that…

“Conversation is the fundamental unit of change. If you change the conversation, then there’s every chance you’ll change everything that surrounds it.”

(Jackson & Waldman, 2011 and others (Groysberg & Slind, 2012; Amabile & Kramer, 2011) have made similar arguments for the importance of conversational quality as a factor profoundly impacting organisational effectiveness.

It is in this context that GCI’s broader purpose is seen as improving the quality of conversations in school communities – leaders with teachers; teachers with teachers; leaders and teachers with parents; and everyone with students – so that principals lead well; teachers teach well, parents contribute well and students learn well.

We believe that coaching provides a vehicle to achieve this.

Definition of Coaching

Coaching in the workplace has emerged in recent years as a popular and effective leadership development approach. With origins in the sporting world and incorporating influences from adult education, psychology and management, coaching in the work context, is now mainstream in many medium to large organisations across many industry sectors.

John Whitmore has been a leading figure in workplace coaching from its early days. In the still influential book, Coaching for Performance, Whitmore, (2002), broadly defines coaching as….

“…unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It’s more often about helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

Witherspoon & White, (1996)…define coaching as ”…a confidential, highly personal learning process designed to bring about effective action, performance improvement, and/or personal growth for the individual, as well as better results for the leader’s organization.”

Each of these definitions highlights key aspects of just what workplace coaching involves; positioning it as a development strategy that is distinct from mentoring, consulting and training although it does overlap with these fields.

Our reading of the burgeoning industry, academic and education focused coaching literature (Stober & Grant, 2006; Reiss, 2007; Bloom et al., 2005; Robertson, 2005; Fink et al., 2011; van Nieuwerburgh, 2012) coupled with our direct client experience has led GCI to define coaching as…

“…a dialogue in which the coach and the coachee collaborate to unlock a coachee’s potential and maximise performance. It is a relationship that helps coachees to learn and enhances their professional effectiveness and on-the-job performance, ensuring accountability and support for managing workplace issues, reaching goals and sustaining development.”

Some additional aspects of the GCI Coaching Approach…

The GCI approach is based around three core ‘pillars’ that provide a solid platform for good coaching. These three pillars are:
  • A framework for the coaching conversation – the GROWTH model
  • Core micro communication skills
  • Way of being


This model provides a scaffold on which coaching conversations can be based. While not intended to be an inflexible formula, it does provide a helpful structure that enables the coaching conversation to progress toward clear actions and outcomes.

The model is an extended version of the widely used GROW model popularised by John Whitmore (2002). Research by Gollwitzer (1999) around ‘Implementation Intentions’ supported the value of emphasising the ‘Tactics’ and ‘Habits’ steps in goal attainment, and these steps have been incorporated into the GCI model.

Micro Communication Skills

A second core component of GCI coach training is based around the micro communication skills of:

  • Listening
  • Being present
  • Empathising
  • Being succinct
  • Clarifying
  • Questioning
  • Giving feedback

Way of Being

A third core component of Growth Coaching training involves exploring the concept of Way of Being and its impact on coaching. Tools and techniques can all make useful contributions to effective coaching conversations. However, the coach’s own ‘way of being is a significant influence on coaching outcomes. Based on a loose understanding of Rogers’ ‘way of being’ (1980) some ideal attributes for coaches will be explored: humility, confidence in coaching ability, caring about people, belief in the abilities of the coachee, respect, and integrity.

Solutions Focused Approach

Underpinning the GROWTH model is a theoretical perspective that draws from recent thinking and research in the related fields of Positive Psychology, Appreciative Inquiry, Solution Focused theories and Strengths Based approaches. This confluence of positive based theories emerging in the last 10-20 years provides a strong evidence base for the approach that GCI coaches draw upon.

GCI has a formal alliance with the Centre for Solutions Focus at Work (SFWork) based in London, UK that allows us to deliver SFWork coaching programmes in Australia under licence.

Evidence Based

We also place value on providing evidence based coaching. We adopt the definition of evidence based coaching as described by Stober and Grant (2006, p6) as the “…intelligent and conscientious use of best current knowledge integrated with practitioner expertise in making decisions about how to deliver coaching to individual coaching clients and designing and teaching coach training programmes.”

Our modification of the GROW model to GROWTH in the light of Gollwitzer’s (1999) research on Implementation Intentions is just one example of how an evidence based approach has informed our coaching practice. We seek to do this in other areas of our coaching approach so that a level of rigour is maintained throughout the entire process. Various new empirically validated interventions from positive psychology are incorporated into our coaching approach as may be required.

It can be argued that one of the major strengths of the Positive Psychology field, in its broadest sense, is the science that now sits beneath various positive approaches that in the past might have seemed appropriate and helpful but had little scientific underpinning. This new science has contributed greatly to the credibility of evidence based coaching approaches (Biswas-Diener, 2010).

Our application of the various coaching techniques based on Solutions Focused approaches and the other positive theories (Positive Psychology, Appreciative Inquiry) provides further examples of how we seek to make our coaching approach evidence based.


  • Amabile, T. & Kramer, S. (2011) The progress principle: Using Small wins to ignite joy, engagement and creativity at work. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.
  • Biwas-Diener, R. (2010) Practicing positive psychology coaching: Assessment, activities and strategies for success. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
  • Cross, R. & Parker, A. (2004) The hidden power of social networks: How work really gets done in organisations. Boston: HBR Press.
  • Bloom, G., Castagna, C., Moir, E., Warren, B. (2005) Blended coaching: Skills and strategies to support principal development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  • Fink, S., Markholt, A., Copland, M. & Michelson, J. (2011) Leading for instructional improvement: How successful leaders develop teaching learning expertise. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Gollwitzer, P.M. (1999) Implementation intentions: Simple effects of simple plans. American Psychologist 54:7. 493-503.
  • Groysberg, B. & Slind, M. (2012) Talk Inc: How trusted leaders use conversation to power their organisations. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.
  • Jackson, P. & McKergow, M.(2007) (2nd ed.) The solutions focus: Making chance SIMPLE London: Nicholas Brealey.
  • Jackson, P. & Waldman, J. (2011) Positively speaking: The art of constructive conversations with a solutions focus. St Albans: Solutions Books.
  • Reiss, K. (2007). Leadership coaching for educators: Bringing out the best in school administrators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  • Robertson, J. (2005) Coaching leadership: Wellington, NZ: NZCER Press.
  • Rogers, C.R. (1980) A Way of Being. Boston MA: Houghton Mufflin.
  • Stober, D.R. & Grant, A.M. (2006) Evidence based coaching handbook: Putting best practices to work for your clients. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc; US.
  • van Nieuwerburgh, C. (Ed.) (2012) Coaching in education: Getting better results for students, educators and parents. London: Karnac Books.
  • Whitmore, J. (2002) Coaching for performance: Growing people, performance and purpose. London: Nicholas Brealey.
  • Witherspoon, R. & White, R.P. (1996) Executive coaching: What’s in it for you? Training & Development, 50:3,14.