executive coaching in dubai

How not to ask for help

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I say that I’ve been going through unanticipated experiences lately. These have been met with varying degrees of welcome; from zero commuting time (= welcomed) to supervising home learning (= far less welcomed).

Some of these experiences have required me to step out of my comfort zone (see my previous article on moving from in-person to virtual coaching) and I was afforded the same “opportunity” last week when I was invited to appear as a guest speaker on a live webinar for the first time. I say “opportunity” because the day before the webinar, I started seriously questioning why I had said yes in the first place. I was feeling nervous and lacking in confidence and these emotions were heightened by my “what if” runaway thoughts; what if I couldn’t get my words out or didn’t make sense, what if no-one tuned in, what if everyone tuned in, what if all my clients were watching and after hearing what I said wanted to cancel their contracts with me? 

As you can probably tell, I am a master catastrophiser. However, I am also a coach, who is highly capable of helping her clients view things from a different perspective and find their own solutions. However, I am also a very normal flawed human being and I can’t always find those different perspectives and solutions for myself or indeed recognise what I need most in any given situation.

In this situation, what I needed most was to ask for help to tame my runaway thoughts and ease my nerves. I think my subconscious knew this when I sent this email to the host and the organiser of the webinar on the morning of the dry run:

“I haven’t had a great couple of days – all part of the cycle that we’re living in I know, but I wanted to give you both a heads-up. I want to show up fully present, engaged and authentic today and tomorrow which I’m not fully feeling right now. I’m also conscious that this feels somewhat out of my comfort zone and I’m questioning whether I am using my current low as some sort of excuse. Normally I would tell myself to buck up and get on with it, particularly as I don’t want to let anyone down. I’m proposing that I join this afternoon to get a greater degree of comfort and engagement and I’m confident that tomorrow will be a brighter day. No action required from your side – I’m sharing this with you in case I’m a little quieter today and I didn’t want you wondering why.”

While I’ll give myself some credit for a well-crafted email, I know that a far more direct and helpful email (for all of us) would have been something like: “Help! I’m feeling really nervous about this webinar as it’s the first time I’ve done one. Please can you offer me some reassurance?” Fortunately, our host Nic (also a coach) was intuitive enough to recognize my unspoken concerns and to offer up some calming and encouraging words to all four guest speakers shortly before we went live the next day.  

Ironically, one of the points that I made during the webinar is the importance of leaders asking their team members how they can help, and also role modelling the importance of being human at this time by asking for help themselves. It never fails to amaze me how good we are at offering advice yet so often fail to take it on ourselves…..

So, what have I learned from this week?

  1. I was reluctant to ask for help for fear of looking feeble. My learning – asking for help is a brave thing to do, not a weak thing and you may even help other people. While I haven’t checked in with all of my fellow guest speakers, my hunch is that the host’s thoughtful and reassuring words before we went live were probably very useful to them too.
  2. My request for help was buried deep amongst lots of words, but it turns out it was a pretty straightforward request; “Can I have some words of encouragement please?” My learning – ask clearly and directly for help. It makes everyone’s lives so much easier.
  3. I was still a little nervous on the live webinar itself, but I’ve had some lovely feedback about how confident and natural I appeared. My learning – never assume that what you see on the surface of someone else is an accurate reflection of what they’re really thinking and feeling.
  4. Despite my concerns, I think I articulated my thoughts reasonably competently. I even started to enjoy myself and I surprised myself by how readily I have agreed to do another webinar! My learning – courage comes before confidence. If I had waited until I felt confident enough, I never would have done it.

My hope is that my learnings are useful to you as well and I’d like to offer up a couple of gentle enquiries for you to consider:

  • Where are you holding back on asking for help?
  • What’s the worst that could happen if you asked for help? And the best?
  • Who do you know who might benefit from being asked this clear and direct question: “what’s the one thing I can do to help that would make the biggest difference to you?”
  • What is it that you’ve been waiting for the confidence to do, when in fact, all you need is a little courage?

If you’re interested in seeing the finished webinar “Stop the Overload! Communicate with Heart & Impact in Times of Crisis”, you can find a recording of it here. A genuine thank you to WWA Coaching for this wonderful opportunity.

Image credit: ‘What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?’ asked the boy. ‘Help,’ said the horse. Illustration: Extracted from The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy/Ebury Press