Work Smarter, Not Harder: Natalya Sverjensky, Managing Director of NOBL Collective
Natalya Sverjensky is the Managing Director of NOBL Collective, a consulting group that helps workplaces foster healthy, productive work culture. They help all types of companies — from startups with remote teams to massive corporations — create an environment that encourages employees to work together in order to unlock their full potential. NOBL offers cultural assessments, coaching programs, offsite events facilitation, and targeted 90-day programs that boost company morale.
Natalya’s guiding principle is that work should be purposeful and stimulating, not stressful and overwhelming. She sees this happening most often in startup atmospheres with founders who have too much on their plate to execute their idea effectively. By creating a team-oriented environment with empowered employees, Natalya creates sustainable business models all over the world and helps founders and their employees work better together.
Current home base:New York, NY
Originally from:Baltimore, MD
Your superpower: Focus. I help founders make sense of their vision and what they (and their growing teams) need to do to achieve it as they scale.
One thing on your bucket list:
A grand tour of Central and South America. I’m in love with Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro. The next stops would be Chile, Argentina, Colombia and more of Brazil.
A current woman you admire and why:
Suki Laniado Smith. She’s a force of nature and has been my mentor for the better part of a decade. Suki built the executive coaching practice at Shirlaws, a global consulting business, against all the odds in a male-dominated industry. She was the one who helped me realize that if I built my coaching skills, I could do anything.
Quote/piece of advice that you live by:
“Your company should be your best product. It’s the product you use to make everything else you do.” Jason Fried (Founder of Basecamp)
What inspired you to start your current venture?
The red thread of my entire career has been building a new blueprint for work that actually works. I was inspired to join NOBL Collective after observing how overwhelmed people tend to operate at work these days, especially in the startup world. Everyone is too busy to breathe, let alone to take a step back and think critically about how they’re working together as a team. I believe that by working in newer and healthier ways, founders and their teams can overcome the trap of busy work. Work can feel less like a treadmill, and more like an energizing pathway. Being at work can feel meaningful and inspiring, not stressful and anxious.
What are you/your company doing to make history today?
NOBL is helping companies make culture their competitive advantage. We’re on the front lines, working with organizations of all kinds to change the way they work — from big corporations that have too much inertia and are craving speed to rapidly scaling startups who need to manage social complexity.
One thing I’m most proud of is that we never recommend a way of working to anyone without testing it ourselves first. From remote work to prioritization, decision-making and more, we’re always trying out new approaches to see what works. And we have some incredible women with PhDs in organizational psychology on our team who make sure all our recommendations are credible and evidence-based.
What is one thing you and your company have accomplished that you are most proud of?
A lot of my work is confidential, so I can’t speak to specific clients. One I will mention, though, is The Gramlist, an influencer marketing agency [for which] I’m a board advisor. I’ve been working with Brandon, the founder, and his team for over a year now. When we first started, they were only 3 people. Now they’re almost 15 and growing rapidly. It’s been incredible to watch how a culture-first approach has allowed them to scale so quickly and generate revenue with a solid customer base, something that is sadly rare in today’s “unicorn”-driven startup world.
What, in your opinion, is one of the biggest challenges facing your industry today?
Busy work. As the rate of disruption speeds up, founders are tasked with matching it. Everyone is putting in more and more hours in a daily attempt to stem the tide, but it’s not clear if all that hard work is paying off. We know that this kind of work definitely leads to mental health issues, burnout on the job, presenteeism, and plain old inefficiency. Add in the explosion of 24/7 collaboration tools (Slack, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc) plus email and meetings, and you have a toxic recipe for work. At NOBL, I’m refusing to buy into the hustle. I’m challenged daily to recommend ways of working that help founders work smarter, not harder.
What is a trend in your industry that you foresee becoming popular in the future?
[I foresee] better technology and tools for digital collaboration. People are overwhelmed by always-on communications like email, texting, Whatsapp, Twitter, LinkedIn, and now on top of those, platforms like Slack and Facebook Workplace. The problem with digital tools like Workplace is that they’re only adding to the noise. They also encourage addictive behavior and 24/7 engagement, which is unhealthy. I’m already seeing pushback in the workplace about these platforms, and we’re going to see more resistance until those companies get serious about helping people manage communications overload.
What is one of the greatest challenges you have personally faced at this job?
Helping teams change their behavior can be exhausting. You’re helping them manage psychological and emotional challenges, not only task-related issues. It takes an insane amount of focus and compartmentalization to make sure I don’t bring people’s issues home with me.
What were you doing before your current role?
I trained my whole life to become a professional ballet dancer. When I turned 18, I quit to go to college at Parsons School of Design. I got a BBA that taught me how to lead creative teams. I moved to London and ended up leading the strategy practice of a global sustainabilityconsulting business there (and meeting my husband along the way). I flew all over Europe and South America helping companies dream up the sustainable business models of the future.
Unfortunately, culture kept eating all of my beautiful strategy presentations for breakfast. I moved back to New York and launched the US business of global coaching partnership Within People, where I specialized in leadership development and culture. I landed at NOBL after becoming fascinated not only by culture, but also by organizational design.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give to other female founders & change-makers?
I like to say that running a company is 80% psychology, 20% execution. Leadership at its core is about people. If you create the space to focus on your team dynamics, it always has an outsized impact on business performance. Most of the problems you’ll see in any company stem from relationship issues, not technical ones.
Are there any great resources you have discovered that you would like to share?
NOBL has just rolled all of our practical tools and wisdom published over the years into NOBL Academy, an essential resource for founders. Pretty much any topic you have a question about, you’ll find something helpful on there. I’m also obsessed with First Round Reviewfor similar reasons.
Fun fact about yourself:
I’m American, but both my parents are Australian – I have dual citizenship 🙂
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