Do You Ask for Help? A Powerful Coaching Conversation | "Heart to Heart" with Julie Johnson MCC

Stressed out Businessman at desk with laptop

In this "Heart to Heart with Julie" column, Julie Johnson MCC shares sample coaching conversations and situations to help you grow along with her learnings, ideas and practical tips to help us all become better coaches. These are real coaching experiences that illustrate common issues coaches face.

We encourage you to share your thoughts, learnings and own experiences in the comments below!

These articles were first posted on Julie's blog, The Coaching Cube, and have been updated for inclusion here.

In this article, Julie demonstrates the power of simply giving our clients space to reflect and think. We don't need to ask complicated questions to evoke powerful realisations for our clients! And it also challenges us all be more brave in asking for help...

How it all started

The other day on a train ride home from London I had the luxury of being disconnected from internet. I could actually feel my mind relax as I closed my eyes and let my thoughts go where they wished.

Soon enough, they landed on a conversation from a recent coaching session. The more I replayed it in my mind, the more I felt its power…

So my question for you is this: "Do you ask for help when you need it?"

Here's the Coaching Conversation:

  • "I rarely ask for help." Those were the words of my client.
  • Once he said them, I thought to myself, now THIS is a 'window of opportunity' waiting to be opened.
  • I simply looked him in the eye, and said, "Oh?" (Perhaps the most brilliant of powerful questions.)
  • "Yeah. I loathe doing so!" he exclaimed.
  • "Tell me more," I said.
  • "Well, it's such a sign of weakness." My client paused. "I was hired to contribute, not to get others to do my job. I'm supposed to know what to do, and how to do it."
  • I let him pause some more.
  • "Besides, people might see me as incapable, unmotivated—or even lazy!"

COACHES: Do you recognize this conversation, in some version or another?

Let's continue!

At this moment I could have nudged the discussion in a zillion directions. But something told me to try the following:

  • I said, "Well, what about offering help? How often do you do that?"
  • "Oh, all the time! It's my job!" he responded enthusiastically.
  • Then, another pause. He said, "OK, OK, I get the point—there's an imbalance here. But I just don't want to feel or look weak."
  • "Hmmmm." I followed that with, "When someone asks you for assistance, do you help them out?"
  • "Usually" he said.
  • "And, how does that make you feel?" I asked.
  • He smiled. "Well, good, of course."
  • I asked him to tell me more. Long story short, we eventually generated quite a list (well, he did) of how he feels when asked for help:
    • Good about self
    • Important
    • Needed
    • Sense of belonging
    • Significant
    • Relevant
    • Respected
    • Appreciated
    • Competent
    • Trusted
  • These are important feelings! We then looked at it from a different angle—the positive impact he can have on others when he asks for help:
    • To start with—all of the above bullets apply.
    • Balancing asking and offering help can develop a true peer, shoulder-to-shoulder relationship and interdependency.
    • Not asking for help could even be seen as selfish: I deprive you of the pleasure of helping me, in order to satisfy my own egoistic needs.

How I wrapped up this conversation:

Our time was almost up, and I focused my mind on how my client could begin to integrate this important learning into his professional life.

  • I turned to him. "I have a request: Will you ask for help at least three times over the next week?"
  • He nodded yes.
  • I asked him to jot down answers to these questions each time he asked for help:
    1. What was the situation?
    2. How hard or easy was it to ask?
    3. How did the person respond?
    4. And finally, what might the impact have been on the person?
  • Then just before closing our session, my client turned to me and said:
    • "May I ask you for help? Could you email me in three days to inquire how I am doing on this?"

Now it's your turn:

Once I'd finished reminiscing on this conversation, I felt secure in the knowledge that asking others for help offers both parties the opportunity to feel empowered.

So, what do you think? What did you learn from this sample coaching conversation? What coaching tips did you pick up?

And lastly, this article is obviously more than a conversation. Running a coaching business can be tough, so I'm also challenging you:

  • Will you ask for help 3 times in the next week (however small)?
  • And will you make a note of the answers to these questions:
    • What was the situation? How hard or easy was it to ask? How did the person respond? And lastly, what might the impact have been on the person?

Share your thoughts with Julie in the comments below.

If you liked this "Heart to Heart" column from Julie Johnson, you may also like:

Julie Johnson

Contributing Author:

Julie Johnson MCC, MIM is an Executive Coach, Coach Supervisor and Author. Her purpose is to help motivated people be at their best. She's passionate about spreading quality coaching conversations farther and wider, impacting the lives of people she'll never meet. Julie helps leaders develop an authentic Coaching Leadership Style so they grow next-generation leaders - and scale their own leadership. She also loves creating synergies by connecting 'the right people' with each other. Meet Julie in this short video here and learn more about her on her website here. You can also sign up for her monthly blog The Coaching Cube.

Learn more about Julie & see all their articles here >>

Image of Stressed out Businessman with head in hand at desk with laptop via Shutterstock


  1. Gavin

    Wow, the Universe must work in algorithms. I have client who performs very well, is competent and very knowledgeable and experienced. She seldom asks for help so this is a very good exercise/tool that she and I will both really benefit from.

    • Michela Phillips

      Thanks for sharing, Gavin! So glad this is article is helpful for you 🙂
      - Kindly, Michela


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.