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pressthebuttonRecently my mother had a fall and waited 48 hours to “press the button” for an ambulance to take her to hospital. Why did she wait? A mixture of reasons. She hoped the fall was more minor, and that the pain would be manageable. She hoped to get better by herself, with peace and quiet. It is her way though, not to tell people when there is a problem, preferring first to try to solve things for herself.

She’s not unusual. From conversation with others it has became clear there are parents and grandparents up and down the country reluctant to “press the button” and gain help when they need it.

As adult children we can get cross or upset when our older family members persist in struggling on and not making their lives easier. We wish our elderly relatives would accept help more easily, and, if we are truthful, be rather less independent from time to time.

Yet are we different from this? Do we rush to ask, or do we wait our equivalent of 48 hours before “pressing the button”, when we need help. For example:

·         When we have a cash flow problem, do we communicate this early with those in Finance who could help us?

·         Do we take advantage of IT support or do we wait until we have a major problem before we ask for help?

·         Do we allow HR to contribute to our strategic thinking or just ask them to recruit at the eleventh hour?

My experience is this, although we might not like to admit it, we are often exactly the same as our elderly family members.

We want to fix our problems for ourselves. This way we keep our problems, and our vulnerabilities, invisible and inside.

In my last blog, counter culturally, I asked for help. I explained about my aspirations for my career and asked for help. This brought forward a larger than usual response, with empathy, understanding, genuine feelings of connection and practical offers of help. Allowing others to see me, not as a superhero who is entirely self sufficient, but as someone who can also struggle, seems to have altered perception of me in a positive way.

More importantly it has altered my self perception too.

It has altered how I feel inside. It feels a relief. I don’t have to hide my struggle for not achieving a perfect pipeline of work any more. I don’t have to pretend it’s amazing all the time. As for most people, things ebb and flow.

The most significant learning here is that asking for help can, and needs to come, from an “I’m OK: You’re OK” position. In fact, that’s the only way it works well. When both sides feel good about themselves.

The irony is that asking for help from the “I’m OK” position, requires taking a risk in feeling the opposite – not adequate, not desirable, not part of the in-crowd. And supportive help in developing this capacity can be invaluable.

What is the story you tell yourself, about asking for help?

If you are not as skilled or as comfortable about asking for help as you would like, ask yourself:

What’s the downside? What does it stop me asking for? What is the cost to my “pressing the button” late, or not at all? What opportunities does it stop, or prevent? What difference could it make, if I could ask?

The incisive question might be this:

If I knew that only better things still came from asking for help, what help specifically would I ask for now?

Get in touch if some coaching support would benefit you and what you wish to achieve personally and professionally.


Many of you will want to know. My mother is recovering. It’s a slow process from having hurt her back and was very slow trying to do this on her own. She’s come to live with us. A slightly unusual way of getting a busy house again!


Gill is passionate about developing the leadership capability of professionals in organisations to help them manage change, develop a positive culture and achieve successful business results. She is looking for opportunities to contribute within a team on an interim, contract, project or permanent basis.

If you would like to meet Gill for a coffee, to explore how she could contribute to your organisation’s ambition, please contact her here.


Gill How

Helping leaders grow, step up and deliver outstanding results

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