Boris Johnson is the Mayor of London – one of the UK’s most sought after and influential political posts.
I remember one day I was walking up City Road towards Angel (just North of London’s central business district). As I crossed at some traffic lights, pulling up on his bicycle was Boris Johnson – wearing a suit and a bicycle helmet, his straw-like blond hair sticking out everywhere. It’s not how you expect to encounter the Mayor of London.
When London was selected to host the Olympic Games in 2012, it was a huge deal. At the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, it was Boris Johnson who strode on to the stage to accept the hand-over of the Olympic flag. He looked incongruous – like a bewildered schoolboy who had somehow wandered into the wrong school assembly.
But my favorite encounter with Boris Johnson was during the London Olympics themselves, I was working at the Olympic Park in Stratford and every day, traveling to and from the Olympic park on the underground, Boris Johnson’s recorded voice would come over the loudspeaker to share helpful travel tips for everyone. It’s just not something that you would expect the Mayor of London to do.
You may be thinking – what has Boris Johnson got to do with business networking? I think he’s an interesting example in a couple of respects:
1. Find your own style. Looking a bit different is often an advantage – people will remember you. The way that Boris Johnson looks and sounds is quite unique and separates him from many of the other key players in what is often a grey and bland political and bureaucratic landscape.
2. Do what you say you’re going to do. During his election campaigns Boris Johnson is quite good at articulating clear and practical promises that mean something material to the people of London. Two things stand out for me – he said he would introduce a bike hire scheme similar to the one operating in Paris; and he said he would get rid of the extra-long buses that were being used by Transport for London (they carried a lot of people but were clogging up London’s narrow winding streets). I didn’t really expect either of these things to happen. But he has delivered on both these promises and many others. It’s impossible not to respect someone who does what they say they’re going to do.
3. Be surprising. Don’t be too predictable, too safe, too obvious. Keep people on their toes, keep people guessing. If you can be more than what people expect you to to be then you are already at an advantage.
Boris Johnson – another example of how your inspiration for effective business networking can come from some unexpected places.