Author Archives: MamaTray

How to be a working parent – in 90 minutes…

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It takes me one and a half hours to get to work. Pfew.

Fifteen years ago I would’ve jumped off the train half-way and walked the rest just to be doing something. Now, its only just enough.

Because now I have three kids/three kids have me.

That ninety minute journey is decompression. Ninety minutes of acclimatising. Ninety minutes of recalibration.

Shorthand – desperately needed!

That’s because there’s four environmental changes my brain needs to absorb before i can mentally clock in…

Unreasonable-ness to reasonable-ness

Kids are irrational. Life is unliveable for Steo (my 4 yr old) about eight times before 9am. For toast reasons, tracksuit pant reasons, Texta reasons, iPad reasons. I see my role as diplomacy more often than not – negotiating the kids towards lunch, school, toothpaste, medicine, etc.

Unless you have a baby-boss ‘ T rump’ in charge, or clients/colleagues of a similar ilk, this skill doesn’t get a work-out at work.

So I need to reassign this energy. In 90 mins.

Inefficiency to productivity

I will not be thanked for providing a new banana to a colleague because hers broke as she peeled it. Cutting my lunch into 16 squares to make it more appetising will be what it is – a waste of time. I will only need to present that document one time, not three “because I didn’t read it in the right voice”. I’m at work now. Make stuff, do stuff, the quickest, smartest, most cost-effective way possible , please.

Come to grips. In 90 mins.

Chaos to predictability

Fright-and-flight peaks in parenting. I run a low grade cortisol level constantly – glands are at the ready to thrust in adrenaline with the next blood-curdling scream/sibling face punch/broken limb/food-or-drink spillage/broken window , etc . etc. ” The only constant is change ” is no longer a sweet meme.  ” Plan nothing” is your mantra.

Until ” Plan Everything ” is. At work.

WIPs, progress sheets, planning meetings, account managers, ‘next steps’, timing spreadsheets, base-touching. The sweet smell of predictability.

Adjust. in 90 mins.

TMI to politics

“I’m going to do a poo, can you wipe my bottom? ” is not something I will hear in my working day. Neither is “I’ll rip your guts open if you don’t give me back that transformer/apple/ texta/etc”. “I hate you mummy”; “What are these? ” *pointing to tampons/pads/breasts* ; are all thankfully home-chat. ‘Face-value’ is turbo-charged – ‘in-your-face-value’.

No ditto at work.

Double-meanings are everywhere. What does that stiff email from the client mean?

W ho is the ’right person’ to approve that change? Did you make sure everyone on that project had a say , and signed off that document? Understanding agendas, hierarch ie s, and role expectations , is all par for  the course.

Prepare yourself. In 90 mins.

So , I say again, praise the long journey to work…

And praise the gifted employer – like mine – who understands these shifts, allows for them , and facilitates them.

They will profit from them.

They’ll have a workforce of elastic brains: responsive; flexible ; and ready. Undemanding, grounded and pragmatic.

People who, when shit hits the fan , are:

1) ready to clean it off ; 2) know what stuff to use to clean it off ; 3) will find out patiently and fairly sewho  shit it is, and how it go t  there ;  4) smooth everything over with ice creams so it doesn’t happen again.

These wise words come from the brain of Mandy Lawler.

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Finding your ‘why’

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How sustainable is the ‘Do what you love’ mantra?

Miya Tokumitsu, author of ‘Do What You Love And Other Lies About Success and Happiness’, says, in an interview with The Altantic, she feels there’s a sort of dark hedonism in the pursuit of this ideal – like an addiction, where one is relentlessly seeking those “good feelings.”

Is this another way of saying that the ‘too much of a good thing’ principle can apply to a career based only on ‘love’?

Case in point – I worked in a café for 6 months surrounded by delicious food (my ‘happy place’) and ended up 10kgs heavier and very unfulfilled!

So, I think better advice is to find what ‘we care about’.

We are constantly telling organisations to find and commit to their ‘why’ and communicate this through a meaningful brand, but we don’t necessarily put the same pressures on ourselves.

I think a lot of the reason is that it’s easier said than done for most of us.

There’s mortgages to pay, bills to deal with, kids to raise, cars to fix – wistfully pursuing a noble vocation that usually translates to little $$ might be a bit pie-in-the-sky.

So how on earth do those of us stuck in a ‘what’ get some ‘why’ in our lives? How do we fish out the ‘vocation’ in our ‘profession’?

We might find some answers in the endless advice on ‘careers’ and ‘callings’ littered through
the internet.

Here’s two phrases I came across, for instance, that resonate with me…

‘Consider your epitaph, not your resume’

What do you really want to be remembered for? Read out your eulogy in your head – are you happy with what’s being said? What change can you make in your next career move that carves out more of your epitaph and less of your resume?

‘Find a problem to solve‘

How can I make my professional skill work to help fix a societal problem? Is there something I can do after hours, something I could suggest as an extra-curricular activity at work that makes a difference in a way I know will be fulfilling?

It’s not easy, but getting little bit of ‘why’ in our everyday work lives might go a long way.

Incidentally, I’ve now found my ‘why’ here at MamaTray where I now eat a lot less sandwiches and use my strategy smarts to help other organisations find their ‘why’. Ha!

These wise words come from the brain of Mandy Lawler.

Shut up and listen

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So, a couple of weeks ago I spent two days learning how to listen…

This sounds like spending two days learning how to tie your shoe laces but at the end I was still only maxing out around a level 2 listener (depending whose theories you’re good with, you can make it all the way to a level 5!) – pretty pathetic!

That’s because listening – not just hearing, but engaged, empathetic attentiveness – is H-A-R-D!!! It’s hard, because the key to real listening is to resist (and in fact actively reject) advising.
My father in law often mumbles, “The world is full of people wishing to act in an advisory
capacity” – you can taste the disdain.

But, amen…

I can’t remember one conversation where I’ve resisted dropping two cents in – asked
for or otherwise. Maybe it’s because we attach a value to an answer (a dollar value often in fact). Its quantifiable, in a way that simply listening isn’t. There’s nothing, for instance that shines a light on your dispensability at work, than sitting through a meeting without saying anything…thumb twiddler have an opinion!!!

But what if listening was more productive than advising? What if we took the view that we all have our own answers locked away inside our own private neurosis and it just takes a listener to allow us to vocally untangle it all and let the neurones connect things correctly to each other.

Here’s a challenge.

In the next conversation you have with a mate where they’re describing a pickle they’re in, let them do the bulk of the talking, if not all of it. If you must talk, say only things like; “how does that make you feel” (yes it’s lame, but it’s not advice); “what are your options”; “how could you go forward”. Importantly, resist saying “I think”; “I feel”; “I would”; “I did”.

See where the conversation goes, see if your mate arrives at a solution, see ‘how they feel’ about talking to you at the end of it and see how you feel having not said a word or at the very least given no advice.

You might start a very useful habit.

(And yes, I’m very aware that this whole blog has been a form of advice. 🙄)

These wise words come from the brain of Mandy Lawler.

The Importance of Being Earnest

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Let’s do a little exercise…

Swap your LinkedIn profile pic for your Facebook profile pic for a day – or maybe even a week – and see what happens. My bet is you’ll get question-marks, a lotta likes, heaps of giggle emojis and a few job offers from places you didn’t think existed! If you’re anything like me, the two are pretty different.

That’s the backside of my first born when he was 8 months (he’s 6 now but not much has changed!) on my Facebook profile pic (I’ve two more little bottoms to add to that now!) – can’t see that bringing in too many job offers on LI!

The thing is though, it says more about me than my actual LinkedIn pic. Only a touch more mind you, because my LinkedIn profile pic is a bit of a giggle too – two haircuts for the price of one! Anyway… Try this experiment with all your mates!

Have a look at their LinkedIn profile pics and then their Facebook ones. Which is closer to
the person you know and love? I’m guessing the Facebook one. So why do we put on our
Sunday best Maclean smiles and good angles for LinkedIn and save the bedheads and craycray’s for Facey?

What version of ourselves are we presenting to future employers? The version we have
the energy to maintain around the office 1, 3 or 5 years into the future? That’s a lot of
whitening toothpaste!!

Instead, why not find a happy medium? Ask yourself – does the person in that pic look like it could be me from 5 – 9, not just ‘9 to 5’? If yes, upload! Now, I don’t mean legs over head,
Bacardi Breezer all over dress, blowing a vuvuzela at a hen’s do, but someone you can deliver easily, comfortably and honestly everyday – that doesn’t require you to have ‘work clothes’ and ‘rest-of-life clothes’!

If you’re having trouble deciding on the perfect shot, you’ve got a ready made panel of judges in your mates!

These wise words come from the brain of Mandy Lawler.

Humming to The Same Tune

I needed to quit my job.

I decided that it was an essential part of my personal and professional development. Even though I loved the people I worked with, I slowly started to become more and more aware of things that just weren’t working and NEEDED to change, to account for this new agile business era that we’ve moved into. Things, that those much loved people I worked with, just didn’t want to, or know how to, change. (Even with my persistence.) Unfortunately, resistance to change is the ultimate creativity and innovation killer.

So, I started searching for more, and I found MamaTray. Or maybe, MamaTray found me. Either way – the transition has been more eye-opening than I could have expected.
These are my (10) starters for 10 (a phrase I’ve learnt from working here) –

  • Choosing music is a collaborative process. Everyone has a say. And if they don’t, they should! This sets the atmosphere for the day’s work.
  • Colour, colour, colour!!! It helps stimulate creativity, boost your mood, and keep everyday, monotonous things interesting.
  • Don’t blame it on the stationery. You CAN have fun, sparkly, multi-coloured, jarring patterned stationery and still be professional. Remember Legally Blonde?.. Haters gonna hate.
  • Regular check-ins. Managers neeed to, I repeat, neeeeeed to check in with their employees As. Much. As. Possible. Without being micro managers and without holding up efficiency. Having regular chats mean that things stay on track, everyone feels heard and problems can be nipped in the bud.
  • Team hang-outs are a must. We work together more hours than not, so we should really be trying to bond. Create, for yourself, a work family.
  • Gift a puppy. (By puppy, I mean, an awesome project.) Let someone take care of it, nurture it, and see it to fruition. There’s no better compliment than that.
  • A little chin-wag never hurt no body. We’re all human here, and we love to tell stories. (Stay tuned…)
  • Be nice to yourself. Eat that cupcake if you need to. Take a breather if you need to. Play with Freddie if you need to. (MT’s super cute, Wirehaired German Pointer.) In the long term, it’ll make a huge difference.
  • Say hello to change! Yes, and welcome it with open arms. This is what will keep you and the business afloat.
  • Finally, show us how it’s done. This is probably the most important of all. Don’t give resentment any room to grow, and lead by example. Positivity breeds positivity, and the same can be said for hard work.

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Here at MamaTray, we know what great internal culture looks like. And, we want to share this with our clients and everyone we know. If all your employees can ‘hum along to the same tune’ (even if in different harmonies) – you’re doing it right. Your brand and your business will reap many rewards.

Happy humming!

These wise words come from the brain of Angie Caro, Junior Strategist at MamaTray.

If Office Fridges Could Talk

I didn’t mean for this entry to be self-congratulatory. Truly i didn’t. But it’s turning out that way.

Our office fridge is doing pretty well if you ask me. I give it a 7/10.

There’s no ye olde science-experiment, abandoned lunches from 1992. We’ve kept the colours, preservatives, stabilisers, emulsifiers and other wordy additives to a very dull roar.

We’ve got a small selection of fresh veggies and fruit and the sweetest our drinks get is coconut water (whoops almost missed that cheeky San Pellegrino – well everyone needs to party now and then).

We’ve managed a decent nod to both new age proteins – not one but two brands of hommus! – and ‘old skool’ – ham and swiss cheese slices (and none of that plastic cheese either thanks very much!).

The pickled onions are a nice touch too – what we don’t snack on, we can cocktail-party with!

Go us!

But…

There’s not much in the way of packed lunches, which means we might be eating out a wee bit too much – what are our mums doing!??

And the freeze-over of the freezer needs to be addressed for two reasons – chewing up energy since the fridge is less efficient and, more importantly, putting to bed the chance of a cheeky Ben and Jerry’s “The Late Dough” if we ever get tempted.

There’s also a weird safe-house for abused soy satchels developing in the veggie crisper which should probably be a bit fuller with veggies.

But on balance – great work ladies!

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In all seriousness though, we intuitively know that eating well matters – but eating well at work is super-dooper important.

An HBR article* on the subject tells us that eating up to 7 portions of fruits and vegetables a day makes us more engaged, happier and more creative at work since they contain vital nutrients that stimulate the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in the experience of curiosity, motivation and engagement – all the vital elements in a buzzy workplace culture.

Send us your fridge pics for an interrogation – you might be surprised!

Happy chewing!

*https://hbr.org/2014/10/what-you-eat-affects-your-productivity

These wise words come from the brain of Mandy Lawler

THE FRIDAY RANT (2)

Hello! Today I’m going to talk about loyalty programs, within the context of a good old rant… FullSizeRender

Firstly, just wanna put the thought out there on what is probably my biggest bug bear with the whole notion of loyalty programs: how can loyalty expire? If I’ve been loyal, I’ve made a conscious, positive choice to stick with one brand (and God knows there are plenty to choose from out there) and I’ve bought a number of their products and/or services over a period of time. My eyes may have been turned by a number of other, attractive specimens – I’m only human, after all – but I’ve remained strong, focused and committed, with my eye on the prize. But what is that prize? – A plastic card that glimmers in a slightly more metallic way than the one I had last time. – A transitory sense of reward that’s veiled in a threat of these miles/points/bonuses expiring in a year’s time, or even less. – A promotion that inevitably seems to have ended, by the time I’ve finally had the chance to claim it. – An ever mounting pile of points that I hoard with glee, but I’m never quite sure what exactly I can spend them on.

Collecting points is somewhat addictive – consider how you feel when you’re in a particular retail store and realise your loyalty card is in your other wallet/bag/car (you’re a bit posh!). You’re briefly reassured by the fact that you can ring customer services and reclaim those points at a later date, but do you ever get round to it?? I don’t. It’s on my ever–increasing ‘personal admin’ to-do list but, sadly, that doesn’t mean it gets done. If you look at the origins of the word ‘loyal’, it was borne way back, out of such significant developments as the legal system, with the definition of law abiding citizens, and ye olde feudal system. And I think right here is where we get to the heart of the problem. Loyalty was about being loyal to your sovereign/government/master – I’d love to say mistress as well, but we all know no one is loyal to a mistress. And if you were repeatedly subservient to your master then you were considered loyal, trustworthy and presumably therefore tipped for the top. Well, not the top, but some form of reward, or privilege, versus those wastrels who were not quite as loyal.

So, in our case, does that make the brands we’re loyal to our masters?! Erm, I think not. We’re the ones with the cash; the ones that keep them in business; the people who help deliver them profits (along with their slaves, sorry, employees); and we’re the ones who can make or break their destiny. Hmmm. So, remind me then why they can dash our dreams in an instant by informing us in a bog standard email template that we’ve slipped from the heady heights of Silver to Scum, and make us feel really quite unworthy of their attention, as we dared to not need their services this year, quite as much as we did last year. I can’t possibly fit all my loyalty cards in one wallet, not even an electronic wallet, as the brands in question don’t necessarily all subscribe to the digital age just yet.

I’ve got cards for: supermarkets; department stores; chemists/toiletry providers; hotels; airlines; cafés; homeware/design stores (swoon) and no doubt more besides. But I can count on one hand the tangible, impressive rewards I’ve received for my loyalty. These rewards have all come smack bang out of nowhere and that’s when I think brands get it absolutely right – when they make us feel really special and knock us for six (in a good way, obv). In essence, when they actually deliver on that well versed marketing concept of ‘surprise and delight’.

So, here we go… I’m going to call out the top three brands that have made me feel very special indeed, in order of impressiveness:

1. Emirates Emirates is an absolutely legendary brand. In less than 2 years, I’ve gone from intrigued trialist, to hard core loyalist, and I’m already a Silver member, to boot. (Having family and friends in a wonderful homeland on the other side of the world might just have given me an advantage there.) I was flying back to Sydney from London, via Dubai, with my sister, my ‘sister in law’ (the ‘bling fund’ hasn’t stretched to a proposal just yet) and her boyfriend. And Emirates gave my entire crew a free upgrade to Business, based on my Silver status eligibility for a spontaneous upgrade. The remaining three peeps in my party were all flying Emirates for the very first time, albeit on my recommendation, and only one of them checked in at the same time as me, benefitting from the same surname, and the same Traylor eyelashes to flutter on cue. Half an hour later, we were all reclined, with a champers in hand and absolutely stoked! (In fact, my sister nearly got trapped in the flat bed position, prior to take off, because she was playing with the settings so much. How the usual Business class flyers loved us…) I’ve just booked another long haul flight with Emirates for this year’s holiday and got the man of the house into the club too. And my sister is travelling with them next month for her visit back to our homeland, having switched from her usual Qantas flight partner. So, while the flight was probably empty enough on that London to Dubai leg in question, and it didn’t cost them all that much to reward us, it has paid more than a few dividends for them already. And I haven’t looked back. I’d already been impressed with the quality of the service and product I received, but now I’m totally committed and won’t look elsewhere. A faithful and loyal subject, if you will.

2. Westin It was a pretty awesome milestone for the MamaTray business when I officially hired my new Brand Strategist, Heather, at the start of 2015. And on 15th Feb, we made our first big business trip, to a big client meeting, in the big city of Melbourne, as a dream team duo. I’d booked us into the Westin, a brand I’ve grown rather fond of in recent years, for both work and play. And, as we checked in, we were informed that we’d each had an upgrade to a ‘Deluxe’ room. They had me at the word ‘Deluxe’! And deluxe, they certainly were. Really lovely rooms with sensational views across the city. I’m a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest Program (SPG) but there’s no specific level I have to achieve to keep me on my toes and presumably, my recent tendency to prefer the Westin in my hotel repertoire had paid dividends. Do I remember the other big brand hotels I like to stay at? Yep. The Shangri–La is in there, for a touch of decadence on a holiday/stopover, but the rest of the selection has paled somewhat in my recognition, for now.

3. Mini I bought my first Mini back in 2009. It was ‘pre loved’. (What a great example of how verbal identity can transform a somewhat ordinary concept into something you really want.) It was a convertible and I bought it in late October, back in England, and I distinctly remember driving home, top down, just because I could, with my friend Rachel freezing to death in the front passenger seat. I jumped into the car with my new set of keys and started reversing out of the parking space on the forecourt, when I noticed a huge bouquet of flowers on the back seat, just casually chilling out, with a lovely, handwritten ‘thank you’ card from the team involved. Now that’s what we like. FYI, my Mini dream was robbed from me somewhat early, when I got the offer to move to Sydney with Interbrand, so I went on to buy another pre loved model out here in Aus, at twice the price of the nearest equivalent in Europe. And there are those out there who say that branding doesn’t work… Those who nearly made it into the top three, but not quite, include: – The Ritz, London. For those of you who don’t know, The Ritz is an infamous, timeless, London establishment where you simply must go for afternoon tea, sweetie. They treated my Mum like the friggin’ Queen at her birthday tea and she was thrilled skinny (her phrase). Think: special ‘Happy Birthday’ solo by the resident harpist; personalised birthday cake (as if we needed any more food); and (tin foil) origami doggie bag in the shape of a swan (the neck doubled up as a carry handle). – Ocado (online shopping operated by Waitrose in the UK) and Coles (Australian supermarket) – both of whom slipped a bottle of crisp, chilled, white wine into one of my first online shopping deliveries, just because they knew I’d appreciate it. I most certainly did. – British Airways. Who upgraded me into a (much needed) Business flat bed on the red eye to London, one Monday morning, after a Hen Week Extravaganza in NYC. The guy called me up to the desk in the lounge, asked for my ticket, and ripped it up in my face – this was in the days before free Wifi and I thought he’d seem me ‘borrowing’ the phone line for my laptop, as I had an award paper to get out – but it was all just for dramatic effect, before he gave me my new Business class ticket. (They’ve now lost my favour though, after I slipped from Gold, right down to Blue, and they humiliated me for this fall from glory, ever since.)

Reading these branded examples back, it sounds like I have a pretty ritzy lifestyle. Only, on occasion, I assure you. 😉 So, onto my tips for improvement, as standard issue:

1. Dramatic and spontaneous – Don’t assume because you’re a more everyday retailer/brand like a supermarket, or toiletry store, that it isn’t as important for you to reward your customers as dramatically as it is for bigger ticket, more luxurious brands like airlines and hotels. We all have way too many better offers out there and we’re your bread and butter. – Employees need to be empowered to make spontaneous rewards on behalf of the brand they work for, to make the previous examples more common place for all of us. – A concept I talk to my clients about is ‘planned spontaneity’ – build in those pivotal surprise and delight moments into the customer journey, so that they become talked about hallmarks of your brand experience and spread oodles of free word of mouth endorsement.

2. Elephants never forget  – I’ve told everyone I know about the Emirates story above. But I’ve also bored people with the way that British Airways let me slip down into oblivion and feel pretty shit about it. I won’t travel with them again, or recommend them to my family and friends. Do you know how galling it is for someone who’s British, not to want to support our national airline?! Apparently, an unhappy customer will tell approx. 15 people about their bad experience. I’d say that’s an understatement these days. – Keep your database up to date and use it to keep tabs on how long your customers have been in your life, not just how much they spend and what they spend their cash on. So often, brands prioritise acquisition of shiny new customers, with ever more wonderful offers, and completely forget to recognise and reward their mid and old timers. – Notice when a customer defects, or simply slips off the radar, and ‘reach out’ to them, with anything from a phone call/survey that dishes the dirt, to a ‘we’ve missed you, please come back’ tail between your legs offer, that’s worth their while to consider.

3. Smooth and seamless – We now have the technology to recognise all of our customers, all of the time, regardless of which store/country/facet of our business they interact with. Put your hands in your pocket and implement this technology, to make our lives easier, so we spend more on you and feel good about doing so (without having to carry our loyalty card). Simples! – There’s no excuse for being passed around a call centre, or website, anymore, and having to re-identify yourself on each and every leg of that painful journey. Just. Sort. Your. Shit. Out. – Make rewards seamless versus putting the onus on the customer to opt in and/or activate their reward. We know you make more profit if we can’t all get around to claiming our prize by the timings you set, but, yup, that’s only going to make us think even less of you. Give us the voucher already and don’t set a stupid expiry date on it. Our loyalty can last forever if you play your cards right. Come to think of it, there are a few brands out there that I’ve given an awful lot of investment and loyalty to, during pretty significant milestones in my life, none of whom have given me a cent of recognition, or reward, by way of return. They don’t seem to know who they are, so here’s the naming and shaming: HSBC (House Purchase Number 1); CommBank (House Purchase Number 2); Apple (Business Number 1). You have been warned… 🙂 Until next time.