Building your Connection Stairway

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“The elevator of success is out of order today. You’re going to have to take the stairway.”

This quote sits on my desk to remind me that achieving my goals will take effort. But there is a shortcut, no matter what challenges we face. And that shortcut is knowing the right people.

I moved to New York four and a half years ago from Texas where I had lived all of my adult life. Coming to live in the City alone was a huge move for me…and it was scary. I knew that one of the most important things I could do for myself was to get plugged in.

But how to do that in a community as big as New York? By thinking like a CONNECTOR.

If you are moving to a new community, or a new neighborhood, or even a new building, there are five proven ways to thrive. Each is a connection strategy that you can easily adopt.

1. Get to know your neighborhood. It’s really true that most of us — especially in Manhattan — do our living in a two-mile radius. We find food shopping, the pharmacy, bank, and dry cleaners, and if we are really lucky a hair salon we like. The extras are retail shopping, the library, health care, and if we have a car, a place to keep and fuel it. As soon as we make connections with the establishments we need and the people who run them, we feel settled. I love getting to know the people behind the counter. And I get better service when they know how much I appreciate them.

2. Get to know your neighbors. I live in a 38-story building with 750 people. That’s a major departure from living in a house in Texas for more than thirty years. Getting to know my neighbors in New York isn’t as simple as saying hello in the driveway or making small talk on the lawn. It’s easy to be anonymous in a building…and lonely. So I have made it my goal to get to know five people in the building on a first name basis that I can call if I need anything.  Those relationships have provided many dividends, including social opportunities, physician recommendations and even tickets to the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade!

3. Ask people from your old community who they know in your new community. I have found this tip extremely useful and it’s easily done one-to-one and also on social media. I am consistently amazed what I learn by just asking: “Who do you think I need to know?” Go one better and ask for an introduction. Just be sure that when the introduction is made, you follow up and thank the person who connected you.

4. Take advantage of virtual apps. Do you know of Nextdoor Neighbor? It’s a virtual neighborhood available via an easy-to-use app. I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and have found medical resources, shopping advice, a website designer and an intern from asking for advice on Nextdoor Neighbor. Recently, I needed to find a podiatrist in an emergency. I got 34 suggestions, many of them overlapping, which allowed me to make an informed choice. The doctor I chose saw me the next day and I was thrilled with the recommendation.  I made sure to let the people on Nextdoor Neighbor know I saw the doctor and how exceptional she is.

5. Give yourself a Connection Challenge. Commit to meeting one new person a week. Anything counts – work colleagues, social relationships, people you encounter in daily life. Think of meeting as having more than a surface conversation. You need to know information about them and they need to know information about you. The litmus test of being connected is having a way to set up a second meeting. If you hold firm to this plan, you will have connected with almost fifty new people a year. Realistically all fifty people may not stay in your life, but you will learn how to use your connection muscle to feel comfortable building relationships and enlarging your world.  As an example, this week I am getting together in person with two people I have only spoken with on the phone.  And I have talked to two others with a plan to meet in person soon. In each case, I initiated those contacts and want to take responsibility for growing the connection.

I wish you much success with your connections this month. Please send me a note about any  challenges or questions to and I promise to respond!


  • Ann Louden

    A seasoned executive in the nonprofit world, Ann Louden is the founder and CEO of Ann Louden Strategy and Consulting. Recognized for her expertise in fund raising, high profile special events, and campaign planning, Ann provides counsel to chief executives, staff, and volunteer leadership. Ann’s primary interest areas are education, health care for women and children, the arts, and adoption. As a cancer survivor, she led and was the twelve-year spokesperson for a breast cancer advocacy initiative that engaged thousands of survivors, volunteers and medical providers. With a mantra of bringing big ideas to life, Ann focuses on identifying a compelling vision and creating a goals-oriented plan for execution. An in-demand national speaker for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Ann is the recipient of the Steuben Excellence in Teaching Award and has been named as a CASE Laureate. She is the author of the upcoming book: From Social Courage to Connection: Lessons from Leaders Who Change and Save Lives. You can find her at

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