At some point in our lives, we all need an ally to support our ideas, decisions or dreams. Championing diversity and building inclusion means being an ally to people who are different.

A diversity and inclusion ally is someone who is willing to take action in support of another person, in order to remove external barriers that impede that person from fully contributing their skills and talents, and achieving success in the workplace and/or community.

Here are seven of many ways to be an outstanding diversity and inclusion ally:

1. Attend events, educational programs and discussion groups at work and/or school that address issues of inclusion. Be curious and willing to learn. Remember: You don't know what you don't know, but you can learn about other people when you open your mind completely.

2. Create opportunities for people from different demographic groups in your workplace or school to work together on projects. Create cross-functional innovation teams. Develop processes that allow everyone to contribute.

3. Talk to people who are different than you about their life experiences. Try to imagine yourself in their heads and hearts, as they go about their daily life. Get out of your own head. A true ally takes the time and makes the effort to see the world through other people's eyes, emotions and experiences.

4. If you hear an employee, colleague or friend making offensive jokes or comments about people based on demographics, stop them immediately, let them know you don't want to hear it, and tell them why.

5. Don't assume that because someone from a targeted group doesn't speak up or make a complaint that they think it's OK. That's why people need allies, because it can be daunting and even dangerous to be the member of a targeted group and feel like no one else cares.

As an ally. you need to speak up and take a risk that people you've known who are like you may not want to spend as much time with you. Be willing to educate or, if necessary, let go of those people.

6. Identify the unwritten rules and cultural norms in your organization, or project team, that anyone who wants to be successful needs to know. Develop a process by which all people learn those unwritten rules.

Too often, the people who are included the fastest are those who are similar in some way to people in leadership. When people constantly have to spend more energy trying to understand the unwritten rules for success, it zaps performance and innovation energy.

7. Mentor or create a mentorship program for new hires to help integrate everyone, not just the ones who are like you, into your organization. Help new hires gain the knowledge, skills and experience they need to be successful.