The Will Steger Foundation was granted funding in the spring of 2012 to kick-start an innovative mentorship program aimed at building transformational relationships between young climate leaders and veteran staff at environmental organizations across the Midwest. The program, which launched this fall provides an alternative model for mentorship; one in which knowledge flows in both directions providing growth opportunities on both ends of the spectrum and increasing movement-building potential in new and unexpected ways. Veteran staff and youth leaders across the Midwest have both expressed interest in using cross-generational collaboration for the benefit of their unique visions. The Will Steger Foundation is exploring innovative mentorship models in an effort to support and facilitate the connection of these two groups, with a particular focus on mutual empowerment, and build a stronger national climate movement. (Read more about the program here)
One such model for this type of collaboration is the GROW coaching model, introduced to the Will Steger Foundation by professional facilitator Toby Herzlich, who uses a modified version of the model taught by the Rockwood Leadership Institute. The GROW model was originally developed by Sir John Whitmore in the 1980s, and has since gone through further developments and refinements1. The model is designed for a coach and “client” (or “coachee”) scenario and while commonly employed in business settings, can be a useful tool for facilitating productive conversations in various contexts.
Central to the concept are the cyclical steps of the conversation: Goal, Reality, Options, and Wrap up (GROW) (Fig.1). There are specific tasks or goals assigned to each of these steps that help guide the members of the conversation work through them, however, the model still encourages the participants to respond to the conditions of their individual situation and adjust the arrangement of the steps if necessary. In this way, they act as more of framework than rigid guidelines. In addition to the concise tasks, the steps are also supported by a series of discussion questions designed to provide a means for achieving the tasks. The following are few examples of the discussion questions:
- What would you like to discuss?
- What would you like to achieve?
- What would need to happen for you to walk away feeling this time was well spent?
- What is happening at the moment?
- When does this happen?
- What effect does this have?
- What other factors are relevant?
- What have you tried so far?
- What could you do to change the situation?
- What alternatives are there to that approach?
- Tell me what possibilities for action you see.
- What are the next steps?
- Precisely when will you take them?
- How and when will you enlist that support?
In addition to the questions outlined in each of the above steps, it’s important to bring clarity to other aspects of the process. The model recommends each “session” be scheduled for a minimum of 45 minutes so that both parties have enough time to work through topics without feeling rushed. Similarly, these sessions should optimally take place twice per month, and in a space that lends itself to in-depth conversation and undistracted presence. The sessions themselves should not be thought of as simply check-ins, but should have productive trajectories. The topics of these sessions are determined entirely by what is most helpful and relevant to the participants, and it is suggested that the client or ‘coachee’ prepare for the session by thinking ahead of time about what they’d like to be discussed. The role of the coach is to be a present and attentive listener in the conversation, supporting the client and keeping focused on what they’d hoped to achieve from the conversation. It is important to make sure that the coach is not taking more responsibility for the session than the client, and that they are focused on supporting the client in their own analysis/learning rather than instructing them on what to do. Overall, the conversations should have an emphasis on positivity, encouraging an outlook of success and possibility. Another potentially important part of this process is to identify more long-term goals to work on past the time frame of a single session. This can help the participants develop and practice particular skills that can have a wider scale of applications.
In the Will Steger Foundation’s search for examples of innovative mentorship, the GROW model helps bring forth some interesting and relevant tools. Of particular pertinence are its methods for ensuring self-discovery, stress on the importance of positivity, and priority on making conversations truly productive for both parties. These tools are valuable resources for all of the participants in the Will Steger Foundation’s mentorship program, and anyone interested in replicating practices that foster egalitarian learning relationships.
“The GROW Model: A Simple Process for Coaching and Mentoring.” Mind Tools. Web.
Kaya Lovestrand is a Junior at Bennington College majoring in Dance and Environmental Studies. We are proud to welcome her back to the Will Steger Foundation for her second Emerging Leaders Program Internship. You can read her series of blogs on the Millenial Generation here.