Sometimes you just need a gentle push from people to get you outside of your comfort zone so that you can improve.

I remember when I learned to swim at the grand old age of 11. It was in an old pool in my home town of Stafford, England, in a centre which is long gone, as is the centre that replaced it. That’s how long ago it was, but I remember the lesson.

I was not long out of the Popeye-like arm flotation devices, but still the 15-yard swim was eluding my ‘doggy paddle’ and my red badge – the most preliminary of swim badges – was still not adorning my trunks. I’d gotten close a couple of times that evening, and some of the older lads and the instructors were willing me to make the length. The truth is, I’d bottled it and put my feet down a metre or from the shallow end.

‘Right,’ said the instructor, ‘this time, you’re going to start from the shallow end and finish at the deep end.’ Gulp! I was very anxious indeed, but knew I wouldn’t be left to flounder and that this time I had to make it. I did, to the delight of everyone. A right of passage negotiated, but it wouldn’t have happened without a mentor pushing me .

This for me is a useful reminder that we need the people we trust to push us, to get the most out of us. Conversely, this means that we as mentors and people in whom other people place their trust, need to push them as well – customers, partners and colleagues – if we truly have their interest at heart.

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