By: Suzanne Bates

Pulling into my driveway with seven or eight bags of groceries and bundles from a day of errands, I was in looking forward to getting inside, taking a shower and getting dinner started for guests.  Our house is on a corner lot, with the driveway behind the house, backed up to another street where a home was built four years ago.  When the people moved in we left them a bottle of wine.They called to thank us, but that was about the end of it, except for neighborly waves backing out of our driveway, and those were rare. They never seemed to be home. We had lived in the neighborhood for 19 years and had plenty of old friends on our street.  Still when I pulled in that afternoon, my neighbor and his daughter were just feet away pulling weeds, so I decided to walk up the drive and say hello.

He couldn't have been friendlier.  While the store-bought carton of ice cream was melting in 92-degree-heat, I gave myself over to the conversation.  One thing led to another and I soon found myself being escorted around the yard (I in my yoga pants, he in his yard work clothes) on a tour of their gorgeous new landscaping and stunning new patio. Out came his wife, who, embarrassing for us both, introduced herself.  I was sure we'd met before but the point was, she wasn't.  Still, I was ... well.. relieved.  There had been so many times when I'd said to my husband..."Gee we should invite them over".  Of course I didn't have their phone number or email, didn't know how to spell their last name, and had enough neighbors as friends.  I now realized that even after so much time passing, those rationalizations were stupid.  I felt a whole lot better.  All the credit to my neighbor for inviting me on the yard tour.  Guess he felt it was never too late.

A client the other day told me about taking a job in a new function of a company where she'd worked for 18 years.  This is a company of 35,000 or so employees, so you could start a new job and know no one.  But of course, as she was moving into her office, she walked by her next door neighbor and discovered it was a guy she'd had run-ins with years ago, early in their careers. She decided to get it over with, walked into his office and said hello.  One thing led to another and she was there for an hour.  At the end of that conversation, she was asking him how she could help him.  This woman doesn't suffer fools but found that her rationalizations for why she'd rarely spoken to him were, well, stupid. He was knowledgeable, pleasant and welcoming.  Amazing what can happen when we stop remembering why other people weren't worth our time.

As I've been finishing up work on the new book coming out next year, I've been thinking a lot about the qualities of executive presence that are most attractive and decided one of them is Inclusiveness.  I guess it probably goes back to those awful feelings we have starting in middle school, the first time we realize we aren't in the "in" crowd. There is nothing worse than being ignored...except the feeling you have about yourself, when you ignore others.  One walk around the yard or the office (or the yard) and you have a friend. 

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