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Written by Brent Knight, President of ISS

To me, a mentor is the single greatest tool in my tool belt. Mentors challenge us, they force us to think outside of our own limitations, they hold us accountable, and they motivate us.

I have been very fortunate to have both personal and professional mentors. Some were short-lived, and others stand the test of time. For me personally, these people have made the greatest impact on my life and my career.

There are many opinions on mentors and here is mine. It is great to have a mentor within your profession who works outside of your company or employer. When possible, it is great to have a mentor within your company who does not work in your department. This is usually someone in senior management. The latter is less common in most instances but becoming a common core value in progressive companies. As mentioned above, mentors can unlock potential in employees and as a result, can help companies to build strong succession and maximize the impact that employees have, both in their jobs and on the company.

It can be very challenging to find a mentor. There are several reasons for this including the fact that you must find someone you respect and trust, they need to be willing and interested in mentoring you, and you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to maximize the effort.

Many times I have watched peers work with a mentor, but it was often for the wrong reason, to stroke their ego and tell them how well they were doing. This is not the purpose of a mentor. A mentor should be our accountability partner and should push us to be more than we are, to grow and become uncomfortable.

As we all know, we grow the most when we get outside of our comfort zones and a mentor is one of the greatest tools to do this. One great benefit is that you often create a deep and meaningful relationship with someone who will be in your life for many years to come.