Justin Barlow at Northern Power Futures Newcastle

Justin Barlow is Marketing Director at Nigel Wright Group. After taking part in the Meaningful Conversations For Maximum Impact Panel, Justin spoke to us about approaching difficult conversations at work and why the North East’s business community is the place to network.

Could you please introduce yourself and your organisation for our readers?

I’m Justin Barlow and I’m the Marketing Director at Nigel Wright Group. We’re the North’s largest multi-discipline recruitment specialist.

What are you most excited for and what do you want to gain from NPFs?

I’ve heard of Northern Power Futures before but never attended. With all the promotion on LinkedIn, I thought I’ve got to come along and get involved in some of the sessions here. So one thing I want to get out of NPF is to tune in to more of what’s going on, and what it can mean for the Nigel Wright Group teams here. And hopefully, just give a little back to help younger people starting their careers. 

Definitely, I think the more people we can get involved in NPF, the more it can be. You were on the panel for Meaningful Conversations for Maximum Impact. What is your advice to safe for approaching a difficult conversation at work?

Don’t avoid it is the first thing. Tackle it head on but think about it and plan that first conversation. When you need to have that conversation it is probably the worst possible time for the person seeking help. That reason might be your welfare, stress or whatever, but in respect of that, you control the time when you are going to have the conversation. Think carefully through what you need to have addressed, and try to crystallise that. 

If it’s for your manager to solve the problem get the time from your manager. Not by casually going over and saying: “Can I grab you for five minutes when you get a moment?” That doesn’t sound urgent. Managers are busy, the day takes over and, without meaning to ignore you, other priorities can take over. Go over and say: “I need a few minutes with you today. What time would be best?” 

If someone approached me like that, I would stand up straight away. I know it isn’t a casual conversation. Articulate what it is you are feeling and what you think the cause is. There might be stuff that you need to do, or your manager needs to do, or other people in the business need to do, but you will leave that meeting feeling that you were listened to and something is going to be done. 

It is refreshing to hear that managers need to get to know their staff. We’re really excited for NPFutures to be in Newcastle this year! You were saying you’ve lived in the North East for quite a while. What makes the North East stand out from the rest of the North?

I’ve lived here for twenty years and I’m not intending to go! I’ve travelled up and down the country but when I moved here, this is it now. The North East is the sort of place where you put down roots. From a location point of view, we are by the coast, by the countryside, not far from the Lake District and there’s a good business community in the North East. 

It’s not like London. Your network is transient there. In the North East I will go to business meetings, networking events, events like this, and already in the first half hour, I’ve said hello to five people I knew. You get that in the North East business community. You can build your network, just by attending events, just by being yourself.  

The network isn’t all that counts. It’s about how you perform and how good you are but if you have a network there, then maybe you’ll be able to find some opportunities in the future. If people don’t know you, don’t just assume because you’re on social media that you’re visible – you need to be visible in person as well. The North East is very good at tapping into that. 

That’s really good, just to attend events and use every interaction as one big networking event! A few words to sum up NPFs? 

Helping people to get to know other people, to start making those initial steps! 

What is your advice for approaching a difficult conversation at work?

Don’t avoid it is the first thing. Tackle it head on but think about it and plan that first conversation… Think carefully through what you need to have addressed, and try to crystallise that.

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Northern Power Futures photographs taken by Thomas Jackson at TyneSight Photography

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