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Why GROW is a simple but effective problem solving tool

Posted by David Ramsey on October 1, 2015 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (1)

GROW was influenced by the Inner Game method developed by Timothy Gallwey. Gallwey was a tennis coach who noticed that he could often see what a player was doing incorrectly but that simply telling her what she should be doing did not bring about lasting change. The parallel between Gallwey's Inner Game method and the GROW method can be illustrated by the example of a player who does not keep his or her eye on the ball. Some coaches might give instructions such as: 'Keep your eye on the ball' to try to correct this.

The problem with this sort of instruction is that a player will be able to follow it for a short while but may be unable to keep it in the front of his or her mind in the long term. So, one day, instead of giving an instruction, Gallwey asked the player to say 'bounce' out loud when the ball bounced and 'hit' out loud when she hit it. The result was that the players started to improve without a lot of effort because they were keeping their eye on the ball. But because of the way the instruction was given, they did not have a voice in their heads saying 'I must keep my eye on the ball.' Instead, they were playing a simple game while they were playing tennis. Once Gallwey saw how play could be improved in this way, he stopped giving instructions and started asking questions that would help the player discover for herself what worked and what needed to change. This was the birth of the Inner Game method. The GROW method is similar .

For example, the first stage in this process would be to set a target, which the player wants to achieve. If a player wanted to improve her first serve Gallwey would ask how many first serves out of ten she would like to get in. This is the Goal. The Reality would be defined by asking the player to serve 10 balls and seeing how many first serves went in. Gallwey would then ask awareness-raising questions such as 'What do you notice you are doing differently when the ball goes in or out?' This would enable the player to discover for herself what was changing about her mind and body when the serve went in or out. She had then defined her Obstacles and Options. She therefore learned for herself what she had to change in order to meet her serving targets and she had a clear Way Forward. The originators of both the Inner Game method and the GROW method suggested that many individuals were struggling to achieve goals because they were not learning from experience and were not aware of the available knowledge that would help them.

The great thing about the GROW coaching model is that it can be used for every day problem solving.

For example, The G is for Goal as the problem you need to solve: “We have to find a replacement venue for our conference” The key is spending time with your team or with another person to make sure that the problem is very clearly defined and that you all agree that this is the most significant problem that has to be solved here and now.

The R is for Current Reality. Describe, factually, what the current reality is. This is about fact not hearsay or assumptions. Describe as succinctly as possible what the real situation is, what has caused it, what is the impact and why it needs to be addressed. “The venue has been over booked” “Our conference has been over subscribed” “We did not expect the level of sign up we have achieved” “If we do not have the right venue that seats 2,000 people we will not be able to deliver our goals etc.…”

The O is for option development. Explore and write down as many ideas as possible as to what can be done to solve the problem and shift the current reality to something more positive. “ We can relocate the conference to another venue close by” “We can change the dates” “We can spread the conference over two days” “ We can pay more for a bigger facility at the same venue” There could be many possible options, and the key is to consider what can be done, what have you tried before, what went well and what could you do differently?

The W if for what you will commit to. This is where you end up agreeing what action you will take, by when and who will be accountable for delivering the action/s. “Alice will contact the venue to book the bigger room by 5.00pm on Tuesday” “John will review the venue booking process by 31st October and recommend improvements” It is important that you and your team hold each other account for the solutions and then go back full circle to make sure the goal has been achieved.

David Ramsey Ramseyhouse Consulting

Does Executive Coaching Fail?

Posted by David Ramsey on January 12, 2015 at 10:00 PM Comments comments (0)

One of the biggest challenges facing CEOs today is leadership development and succession planning. In the next 5 to 10 years there will be a 40% turnover of senior leaders in major industries, and yet many of these organizations have very few robust plans in place to deal with this.


However, for those that do, Executive Coaching forms a significant part of a broader talent development strategy. As an Executive Coach, this is great news. There are many examples of how executive coaching can work effectively. For example, the International Coach Federation (ICF) in 2010, commissioned a global coaching client study which reported that individual clients had a median return on investment of 3.44 times their initial investment. The Lore Research Institute identified that Dell Computer Corporation offered coaching to nearly 400 executives and the internal survey determined that satisfaction rates exceeded 90%. In an article published by the Public Personnel Management Journal (circa 2010) it was reported that a typical management training program increased the manager's productivity by 22%, but when combined with 8-weeks of intensive coaching, the manager's productivity exploded to more than 85%.


So we know it works...what's the problem?


Despite the positive benefits, coaching fails almost 50% of the time. There are three key reasons for this:


1. The organization is not ready: sometimes the organization is not mature enough for the use of executive coaching. By introducing an executive coaching program and/or endorsing the use of a coach, the organization is making a commitment to change. By default, the organization and its leaders must be ready for cultural, interpersonal, behavioural and value driven change. These are all significant factors that need to be considered and planned as part of the organizational development strategy that should exist.


When the coaching client operates "back" in the organization, they will be expecting that their change (be it personal and or process/system/performance driven) is ready to be met by that of the organization. When these one set of expectation is not matched by the other, divergent views emerge stronger than before and ultimately you end up with dissatisfied parties.


2. The client is not committed to change - typically when a client wants a coach there is good reason. Harvard Business School's "The Reality of Executive Coaching, 2009" identified that the top three reasons for executive coaching were:


48% to develop high potentials or facilitate transition to a new role

26% to act as a sounding board, and

12% to address derailing behaviour

So given this insight and evidence that coaching works, clients do not always commit to change. Without this commitment coaching will fail. Part of the coaching role however is to probe and question the client to ensure that their goals are stretching but attainable, and that options for dealing with the scope of change are explored. However, when appropriate discussion and exploration of the reasons why change isn't occurring have been exhausted, the coach should end the coaching contract and not prolong. Period.


3. The coach takes on the client's accountability - one of the key coaching skills is the coach ability to question and listen. When change doesn't occur it is tempting for the coach to start to take ownership of the client's inability or lack of desire to change and thereby start to "own" the clients accountability. Evidence of this is when the coach starts to provide direction and answers to the clients problems and when that happens its the start of a slippery slope. To avoid this happening, the coach and client must agree at the outset of the coaching relationship roles and responsibilities and expectations as a minimum.


Executive Coaching is a powerful development interaction. It can make a difference to individuals, teams and organizations. However, it can fail if the right measures of support and intent are not clarified at the outset.



Let's Talk.....how to have effective conversation

Posted by David Ramsey on January 5, 2015 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

As an executive coach working with senior clients, time is of the essence for them. They are busy people. So one of the approaches I use is a fantastic coaching conversation framework developed by Carole Pemberton who describes this in her book Coaching to Solutions - a managers toolkit for performance delivery (2006, Butterworth-Heinemann).

As a coach you need to be able to guide the client to have an effective conversation in the time you have with them on the topic that is of importance for them. The illustration above describes four areas that if combined can make a powerful difference and help in bringing about some form of change: challenge, support, thought, and action.

The challenge for thought quadrant requires the coach to ask questions that force the other person to look at their own analysis and see if there is a need to re-position their thinking; by providing support for thought you are aiming to create a climate and environment where the other person can speak freely and openly so they can explore new ideas and thoughts, which in turn helps them to re-position.

Ensuring the client (or colleague) does something, means that you have tochallenge for action. This helps the client turn talk into solutions or options and then into action which they have to commit to. One thing however, whether a manager, colleague, or coach is to ensure that the size of the action is aligned to their abilities and confidence, so supporting the action is important.

The great thing about this framework is that it can be used in many aspects of professional life whether you are a coach or not. It's simple, effective and pragmatic. Thank you for reading this post. If you like this look for others I have published on Pulse. Please follow me. www.ramseyhouse.ca

World Class? What does that mean?

Posted by David Ramsey on January 5, 2015 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

I have the privilege of working with a group of colleagues as an associate of Results Canada Inc (www.resultsci.com) who recently reminded me recently of how organizations are considered World Class.

"World Class" is often something that is used to describe a lot of things, people and organizations. Often without any real sense of how we get to the position of being world class or how we measure this. I once asked a friend of mine how they would describe this and they came up with an example of Marks and Spencer's underwear simple because the elastic doesn't break!! Humorous maybe, but not that helpful.

John Spence however, the well known trusted advisor, consultant and author, may just have come up with something that helps to bring an often desired status (world class) to a tangible level by using an equation to describe what companies must focus on to become truly world class.

This is as follows:

(T+C+ECF) x DE = world class

So what does the equation mean?

Each portion is a key area that you must focus on if you want to get to a world class status.

T = a focus on talent in your organization: ensuring that you attract, recruit, retain and develop talent;

C = a focus on culture in your organization: As Peter Drucker said "Culture eats Strategy for breakfast" so you have to determine what type of culture you want and the start to build it;

ECF = an extreme customer/consumer focus: without an extreme focus you get standard and therefore you need to think about why you do what you do, then how, then what - in that order so you can build an extreme, daily focus on customers. Bringing these three together then creates a new outcome that has to be mastered.

And that is DE....learning the discipline of execution. Getting the important, high value things done that need to be done.

Integrity as a core value? Nonense?

Posted by David Ramsey on January 5, 2015 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

How often do we see or hear that integrity is a core value of either an individual or an organization? It must be a lot.

I watched a video clip recently of the brilliant Patrick Lencioni talking about core values and how he would argue - all day if necessary - that core values shouldn't appear as part of your personal or organizational values. Surprising? Maybe, but Pat goes on to explain that integrity is a "given", it's a "permission to play" value meaning that it has to be there anyway so why state it? After all, Enron had "integrity" as one of its published core values and we know how that story ended.

So what does integrity really mean?

Here is a definition from Google search:

integrity (noun)

1.the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness."he is known to be a man of integrity"

2. the state of being whole and undivided."upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty"

How do we "live" integrity?

Here are some tips that can be applied to living out your core values if integrity is one of them:

1. Be bold - even if it means being an outlier to maintain your principles, you have to make the stand;

2. Do what you know is right - we can probably remember a time when we know deep down that we shouldn't have said or done something. There is a nano second of opportunity to do what you know is right and stop listening to the other voice on your shoulder;

3. State what you believe in - set out for others what they can expect from you. Adopting a "no surprises" approach can help you and others avoid conflict further down the line. Stating what you believe needn't be brash - humility is a brother of integrity;

4. Look to others - there are many people that influence our lives in one way or another. Seek out those positive role models who you believe are "men" of integrity and ask what it means for them;

5. Seek feedback - quite often other people have a different perspective on what integrity means so ask others how they have seen you behave with integrity and ask for one area of improvement.

The High Performing House That Jack Built

Posted by David Ramsey on December 31, 2014 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

We may be familiar with the traditional nursery rhyme – a cumulative tale that doesn't tell the story of Jack who builds a house, but instead shows how the house is indirectly linked to numerous things and people, and through this method tells the story of 'The man all tattered and torn', and the 'Maiden all forlorn', on top of other smaller storylines.

So how does this relate to building and sustaining high performing organizations in a challenging environment?


Leadership Strategy is critical

For the third year in a row, the consistent execution of leadership development strategy by top management is ranked the second highest challenge by Global CEOs.

Organizations with strong leader and senior leadership development practices have been shown to deliver higher shareholder returns, customer success and higher ROI


  • Almost 45% of senior leaders are set to retire in the next five to ten years
  • Over 50% of leaders feel future business performance will suffer due to insufficient leadership talent and that current leadership development practices are inadequate
  • Over 60% of organizations list leadership development as equal to or more important than other business priorities.
  • Some Boards and CEOs spend as much as 40% of their time supporting leader development


More than basic foundations needed

Many organizations in the public and private sectors have basics such as competency frameworks and leadership talent pipelines, but the best organizations have leadership development programs that deliver:


  • A comprehensive program linked to a leadership and organizational wide talent strategy
  • Effective governance systems and processes with active engagement provided by leaders
  • Program design is customized to leadership “marts” or cohorts
  • A direct link to talent management systems and strategies
  • Development that is accelerated through
  • On-the-job development
  • Pursuit of realistic business results
  • Peer-to-peer support/accountability
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Quantitative and qualitative measures used to evaluate program effectiveness


Leaders must face up to the fact that teams (distinct from work groups) are becoming the preferred way for achieving organizational results – particularly for those in challenging environments where many parts of the system (internal and external) impact the sustainability of the organization. The transition from workgroups to teams is challenging and is increasingly necessary in today’s business world and demands a renewed focus on developing teams and improved leader behaviours.