Updated: Nov 5, 2019
They had one of favourite brand of cupcakes in Chicago. Sprinkles Cupcakes. And they were the mini cupcakes – more dangerous than the big ones. The mini cupcakes meant you made excuses for how many of them equal one normal sized one, so you simply keep eating them. They were so small and cute, you … well I, ate three of them and had to stop myself from a fourth, which would have snowballed into a seventh very quickly.
It was a women’s conference at ICF Next Chicago. It was as I expected – filled with young women and a few men. Some, early in their careers and others more grounded in the career and personal life matrimony. Then there was me, in the middle of the two sides not really fitting in as always, but also feeling unashamed – well not completely I should admit.
Shame is not a bad feeling to have nor is it a humiliating emotion to admit to. We all feel it. Especially as women who are charged with and expected to succeed as home makers, child bearers, multitaskers and career movers simultaneously. Yet we receive some of the harshest evaluations and adjectives when we do or respond the same way a man would in the same situation within the same parameters and contexts. We will chat about that later this year. I got stories and my stories have stories!
Questions were asked of the panel of four women. Each in a unique timeline in their career and life. It was one of the answers to the question, “how can we be a lifter” that triggered this post.
What does it mean to be a lifter?
A lifter is someone who does exactly what the word suggests: they lift. They lift others up in any classification of our definition of life. In the work environment, a lifter is not just someone who will give you a hug when you blow that deal or hold your hand when you send that email before it had matured.
A lifter, as Tricia Ewald answered, is someone who gives people an opportunity and does not conclude for them based on prior knowledge, assumptions or past errors (seen, heard or experienced) on what or whether they can and cannot do. In other words, regardless of the person’s track record and especially when they do not fit the bill perfectly, you should as a lifter, release that opportunity for her or him to show what she or he is capable of.
As the liftee (absolutely created this word) shows what she or he can do when given the opportunity, it is again in the charge of the lifter to be a mentor or a guide. She did not add the mentor part, but I believe we should all take up such roles at various times in our careers as women and men.
Reaching back or to the side to lift others is not a detriment to our reputation or a hiccup in our career. Carla Harris, a Wall Street Veteran says this best when she talks about power – and this rings true in being a lifter. She says, “If someone is worthy of your currency, spend it. The way to grow your power is to give it away.” I felt that. I practiced and continue to practice that. And it feels wonderful to see another shine as bright or brighter than you. It is not a competition. When someone on the team wins, we all win.
I am sure there are people you’ve spotted at work who could use a lift. I am also certain you are in some capacity, able to use your power, your voice and your currency to place that stepping stone down for another, setting them up for the next step. And if you do not think you are in any of these categories, I challenge you to rethink that.
It may not be the power to move a mountain, but if it can make a ripple in the water, it is just as important. It may cause a dominos effect and that mountain may be levelled.
We as women, and men, we owe it to each other to lift others up, just as someone did for us. I think it’s called paying it forward.