Self-development: GROWing as a Researcher

The GROW model is something that is used in coaching to structure the conversation and help the coachee to move from a place where s/he feels stuck, to one where s/he is able to take some kind of action to move things forward. It can be used in most situations, and you don’t necessarily even need a coach to take you through it – you can use the GROW model on your own to help you to think through your own career and work dilemmas.

While having a coach can be really helpful in terms of helping you to see different perspectives on a problem and encouraging you to explore lots of potential options for action, it is possible to use the GROW model yourself in order to impose some structure on your problem-solving and decision-making. On the Research Staff website (http://www.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/researcherdevelopment/RS/careerdev/strategic.html), I’ve suggested how the GROW model might be used in strategic career planning, but it is also possible to use it for a range of other issues where you would like to make progress. For instance, if you’re struggling to manage your time, want to improve your working relationships or want to come up with a realistic plan for improving your publications record.

How to use the model

To use the model you need to progress through the steps below, using GROW as a mnemonic:

Goal – What do you want to achieve? Your goal should be expressed as specifically as possible – so, instead of deciding you want to publish more articles, you might want to narrow this down to one or two particular articles, on specific topics, targeted at named journals within a particular timeframe. Ideally your goal will be something that is easily measurable so that, down the line, you can tell whether you have succeeded or not.
Reality – Now you need to think about your current situation and how that impacts on your goal. What barriers are preventing you from achieving what you want, and what other challenges are you likely to face as you try to move things forward? You might also want to explore the positives – what things are in place that you could take advantage of to help you?
Options – Once you have thoroughly considered your current reality, you need to think about your potential options. This is really about blue-skies thinking and identifying as many potential possibilities as you can – now is not the time to dismiss anything, no matter how unlikely or unrealistic it seems. There will be time for that later.
Way Forward – This is the point at which you can begin to narrow down your options. Once you reach this stage, the idea is to decide what action you are going to take, and they key is to decide on something that you are comfortable with, rather than deciding that you are going to do what you think you should do or what someone else has told you to do. Your way forward has to be something that you think is achievable for you and that you are seriously willing to commit to. This makes it much more likely that you will actually take the action that you have decided on.

At the end of this process your coach might well ask you how confident, on a scale of 1-10 you were that you were actually going to do what you said. If you said anything less than 8, a coach might ask you to reassess your way forward and modify your plans to bring the score closer to a 10. Again, asking yourself this question may help to consolidate your plans.

Finally a coach would be likely to agree to check up on you, to see if you have done what you said. There are two reasons for this – the first is to make you accountable to someone else and therefore more likely to stick to your plan, and the second is to give the coach an opportunity to explore with you what went wrong if, for some reason, you did not stick to your word. This iterative process can help people to refine their goals, to better understand what challenges or barriers they face and to know how to identify actions that they are comfortable with. So – if you find that, after working through the model, you still haven’t made the progress that you had hoped for, you might find it useful to reflect on what exactly stood in your way. Was your initial goal unrealistic? Was there a barrier that you hadn’t anticipated or were you not, finally, comfortable with the way forward that you had chosen.

So, if you’re more interested in self-development than in attending workshops or having a mentor or coach, this is one way that you could try to GROW yourself as a researcher.

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