Working Smarter, Not Harder

Issue 78

This month, Veronica Swindale, MD of nesma, met with Kate Simpson, MBE, Executive Coach. Kate runs a coaching business in the North East aimed at helping manufacturing leaders to win at work by developing personal strategies to work smarter, not harder.

What does working smarter mean in practice?

In my experience, very capable managers often get in their own way. This is particularly true when they are very busy, under pressure, or dealing with difficult external issues such as labour shortages. We work on what I call the four elements of success. Firstly, how we look after ourselves: for example, how we manage to exercise, eat well, and spend time with the people who are important to us. Next, we work on what we need to do to clarify our jobs and clearly understand what we get measured on. Thirdly how we manage ourselves: this often includes things like controlling our email mountains, prioritising, and managing our time and energy. We can then concentrate on the fourth element, what do we need to do to become a high-performing leader leading a high-performing team. We also often work on skills that I would call ‘quick wins’, such as planning, preparing, and becoming experts in our work. I know that you have recently completed an MA in Coaching at the University of Northumbria and that as part of that degree, you have done some detailed research into how we connect online. Can you tell me a little more about that?

My research looked at how coaches build rapport and how that changed when we moved online in 2020. To summarise my findings in one short phrase, I found that ‘it is the same but different’.

Specifically, when working online, we still use the same essential skills to build rapport. We work to build the belief in our clients that our work is client-focused and will deliver results for them. You can distil these actions into four key activity groups: pre-coaching actions, nonverbal cues, verbal cues and managing the physical coaching environment.

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