Back in December, as I considered my goals for 2024, this quote from Oprah Winfrey was on my mind.

“Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.”

Those words inspired me to select “lift” as one of my #my3words for 2024, a ritual I complete each year to help me keep my goals and values at the forefront of everything I do. The other words I selected were “listen” (read my post on effective listening here) and “advocate” (read my post on advocacy here).

I was also inspired by Gavriella Schuster, Board Executive and DEI Advocate, who joined us as a guest speaker at our Women Get On Board Inc. virtual session on allyship last fall. To break down the core behaviours of an ally, Gavriella introduced the acronym ALLIES. Her insights on the role of allies in enabling diversity galvanized me, igniting my desire to do more to support the next generation of women in leadership roles. Guided by her framework, I committed to lifting others—and myself—in 2024.

Why focus on myself as well? Throughout my life, I’ve discovered that when you lift yourself, you will be in a better place to support others. Balancing care for oneself and caring for others is an ongoing process and finding that balance is critical to leading a purposeful life. Understanding this principle, I made it one of my goals this year to rededicate myself to self-care and education, recognizing that when Im at my best, I can provide the most meaningful support to others.

Five strategies for lifting others

Lifting others is one of the roles of allies. Throughout my leadership journey, I’ve grown my understanding of how best to lift people in my personal and professional networks to help them thrive. You can empower people who face barriers to achieve their potential by showing support, sharing encouragement, and demonstrating sponsorship. Here are my top strategies for lifting others.

1. Be present

As a long-time yoga practitioner and teacher, I often incorporate mindfulness principles into other aspects of my life. One thing I’ve learned? Being present in the moment can make you a better ally. Just by paying attention to others and demonstrating authentic interest in their thoughts and experiences, you are providing much-needed support.

Celebrate your peers’ successes and commiserate about their struggles. Sometimes, just being there in the trenches with them is the best way to demonstrate allyship.

I’m a huge believer in the power of presence. In a previous blog, I also discuss how being present can help you become a stronger listener.

2. Show appreciation

Similarly, so much good can come from showing appreciation to others. One way to lift others up is by acknowledging their achievements and finding ways to showcase them.

It only takes a few moments to comment on someone’s accomplishments on LinkedIn or send a short note praising their work. At Women Get On Board (WGOB), we lift our members by showcasing their board appointments on our social media channels, email updates, and website.

I am an award-winning entrepreneur and corporate director. Over the years, I have been honoured to receive awards as an entrepreneur, corporate director, FCPA and woman leader.

To pay it forward, I make every effort to nominate other deserving leaders for awards, writing recommendations and encouraging women to put their names forward. Recognizing the next generation and celebrating their inspiring leaps forward is an honour.

At WGOB, we believe celebrating women on boards is a key part of our mission to connect, promote, and empower women to lead and serve on corporate boards. That’s why we partnered with BMO in 2020 to establish BMO Celebrating Women On Boards, a program honouring women who excel inside and outside the boardroom.

3. Share opportunities

Always share opportunities whenever you can. Passing along board and job opportunities, thought leadership and speaking engagements are all simple ways to lift others who may not have access to the same networks. 

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have allies  who have shared opportunities to showcase my strengths in entrepreneurship, corporate governance, and board diversity. Now, I am dedicated to doing the same for others. When I receive an offer to apply for a board seat, but it isn’t the right fit, I have a philosophy: I say no graciously and then recommend three other women in my place. 

At Women Get On Board, we share board opportunities with our WGOB members through our board services. These board services are a win-win; they enable our members to access new board opportunities, and they allow companies to enhance their board diversity by connecting them with qualified women board candidates.

4. Be positive

Sometimes, the most effective way to lift others up is to offer optimism and encouragement. Be positive and promote positivity, even when times are tough. 

From firsthand experience, I know that a career in entrepreneurship and board service has its highs and lows. While the business world can be challenging, it can help to have a positive community behind you. Often, to lift someone else is to be their cheerleader, lending a listening ear and a word of support during difficult periods.

5. Offer guidance

Leverage your experience to provide advice and mentorship. Over the years, I have noticed that women needed one-to-one mentorship to help them in their board journey. To fill the need, we established our WGOB Mentorship Program, which matches aspiring women corporate directors with accomplished leading and serving women corporate directors to elevate their board effectiveness and advance their journey to a corporate board seat. The program empowers women to take the next step in their board journey through guided mentoring, peer-to-peer networking, and interactive working sessions.

Since we launched the program, mentors and mentees have shared how meaningful it has been to them personally and professionally.

“Empowerment is not only about helping women find their voice, it’s also about making sure they are heard,” said Kristi Honey, a mentor. “It has been such a pleasure and an honour to participate as a mentor in the Women Get On Board Mentorship Program.”

Barbara Boyd, one of our mentees, told us: “I am privileged to be a part of Women Get on Board and their [Women Get On Board] Mentorship Program, which helped lead me to my new [board] role. The coaching from such fabulous inspirational women has been instrumental in accelerating my Board readiness and confidence.”

Are you interested in mentoring someone in your life but not sure where to start? Our WGOB E-Guide to Effective Mentorship provides tips for first-time mentors and mentees that may support your mentorship journey.

I am continually learning new lessons about how to become a better ally. By sharing what I know, I hope these strategies can help you effectively support and uplift those around you.