Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Dream Tree

This post was written by Lydia Milligan, who looks after a lot of the HR related projects within the team.

What’s your Dream? What countries do you want to visit? What skills have you always wanted to learn? Who is the person that you have always dreamed of becoming?

When do you want to achieve these dreams - in the next year? Five years? At some point before you pass through to the eternal kingdom?

Think about how you might achieve these dreams...

Just sit for a moment and think about the answers to those questions. Think about the hopes and desires which fill your daydreams every day when you’re sat at work. Got some ideas? Good! Now think about the idea of your boss helping you achieve those dreams. It’s a little odd, isn’t it? How many people have ever come across a boss who is really willing to help them go hang gliding, learn photography or travel around the world with their favourite band at the company’s expense and with no real gain for the company? It sounds ludicrous really, doesn’t it? But then consider this, how hard would you want to work for a boss who did care about your personal dreams. Imagine how loyal you would feel towards a company that helped you learn how to sail a yacht or invent teleportation? I’m willing to bet you’d feel pretty loyal, motivated and driven to work even harder. For that reason (and because it’s just a pretty cool thing to do), at Shoes of Prey, we’ve decided to start our own ‘Dream Tree’.

It was mid July when Michael first emailed me about this idea. He’d been thinking about the concept for a little while, what did I think about it and did I want to try and implement it at Shoes of Prey?

“I absolutely adore this, what a lovely idea.” I quickly wrote back, “Let’s definitely do it!” and so it began. I set about researching and defining what the idea really was about and how it would work for our team specifically.

There are a few different books and idea’s out there formed loosely around this concept so I never really got to the bottom of where the concept originally began but the most inspirational video I came across along the way and what I based a lot of our Dreams Program on was, ‘What’s Your Dream’ by Matthew Kelly:


For me, he really get’s it when he says:

“It creates a team bond that you simply cannot create by talking about your business. People are people, they are most engaged when you allow them to be people” and it’s so true! Talking about each others dreams and ambitions. Allowing a space for your employees to get to know each other on a deeper and more personal level creates friendship. Friendship in turn creates a loyalty and a determination within the team to work hard for each other and this in turn creates a strong business.

So what did we end up with? Well, we sent out an email asking everyone to list 10 dreams they’d like to achieve at some point in the future. We included a list of questions to help get people thinking and inspire them and asked them to bring these along to, ‘Breakfast in the Park’. So there we were, one sunny Friday morning earlier this month, sitting on the grass and writing our dreams on little pieces of brightly coloured paper. Once we had all written out our dreams, we then asked everyone to share three of their 10 dreams and pin these to the tree, posting the other 7 in the ‘dream jar’. We went round the circle sharing, laughing and learning about each other in a way we hadn’t ever done before. Some talked of dreams to ‘have coffee with Julia Gillard’, ‘learn a language’ or ‘restore an old car’ some joked that they’d ‘love to work on the beach’. After sharing, I gave everyone a little bit of glitter, which together we sparked on the tree and there, 'The Dream Tree’ was born. Cheesy yet fun, all at the same time.

DaveDave dreamt for more champagne!


The ‘Dream Tree’ now sits in the centre of our office complete with ‘dreamspiration’ and our team motto, ‘Heel The World’. We’ve encouraged the team to continue to add to the tree and share their dreams with each other. What we have also done is create a way for the team to nominate each other for doing an awesome job and the top three nominees of the quarter will have their dreams awarded by the founders. We’ll also look to grant any dreams we think are worthy along the way.




At this point, we don’t really know how it will work out in the long run. What I do know however, is that we had a great morning sharing and getting to know each other. We all continue to enjoy learning about each others dreams via the dream tree and I feel proud to be at a workplace like this every time I see that tree. I can’t wait to grant our first dream, watch this space...

*All dreams mentioned throughout this article are real dreams shared by our team, and yes, even inventing teleportation!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bootstrapping in Thailand

Great post on bootstrapping your startup in Thailand. We didn't do this for Shoes of Prey or Sneaking Duck but that was mostly because we started out working evenings and weekends while in our full time jobs. By the time Mike, Jodie and I all left our full time jobs we were at the point of hiring our first employees in Sydney so needed to stay in town to do that. If our circumstances had been different bootstrapping from somewhere like Thailand is definitely something I would have considered.

via Katrine Steenberg

Monday, October 14, 2013

World Retail Awards - Best Store Design!

Wow, we at Shoes of Prey, together with our amazing partners at The General Store are thrilled to have last week won the award for Best Store Design in the World in the under 1200sqm category at the World Retail Awards in Paris! That's not best online store design, it's best store design for our concession store in David Jones - quite exciting for an online retailer and our first physical retail store, and the first physical retail store designed by The General Store! We beat the likes of the Puma Flagship store in Osaka and a Karl Lagerfeld concept store in Paris. Winners of other categories included Tesco, ASOS, Coles and the winner of Retailer of the Year was Wholefoods.

It's exciting to be able to show the global retail industry that we can innovate here in Australia.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A formula for feedback

This post is by Dione David, who earlier this year was promoted to Team Lead of our Customer Happiness Team.

The Customer Happiness team at Shoes of Prey was not only well-established when I was made team lead - it already had a sterling reputation. The job was never to uproot, but to take a team of winners to the next level. I imagine a chef devising the menu for a new restaurant, armed with only the finest produce, would understand. In reality that “piece of cake” factor is as daunting as it is inspiring.

Unlike my previous experience managing a small team at a certain newspaper, at Shoes of Prey you’re expected to make mistakes, but also to pick yourself up, chalk it down and be better. There’s no crutch of compliance for managers at Shoes of Prey, so I lean instead on the various strengths of my team members, the examples set by more seasoned managers and on self-education.

Lately, I’ve been self-educating on how to effectively provide constructive feedback. This gap in my knowledge became clear after conducting my first end-of-quarter reviews with my team members. Going in, I had an expectation of how it would go. I left the room with a new lesson under my belt: do not mistake expectation for edict.

I thought I'd share with you my key learnings from this article, which draws on the knowledge of clinical associate professor of management at the W. P. Carey School of Business, Minu Ipe.

Firstly, feedback needs to be specific, timely, accurate, actionable and meaningful or STAAM. Nothing surprising there, however Ipe suggests a more measured, four-step process to make constructive feedback more effective.

1) It begins with identifying the objective for giving the feedback. For example, am I hoping to change a behaviour? Effect short-term or long-term behavioral changes? Am I looking to reward good performance or ameliorate poor performance? It seems pretty obvious, but being clear about your objective beforehand is key in enacting useful feedback.

2) Prepare for the review. Managing a team of A Players (resumes that read like a who’s who of overqualification) in what so many people view as a thankless job, constructive feedback has the potential to become the proverbial poisoned apple. It ought to be a seed of opportunity. Preparation should include taking the time to make sure my feedback is STAAM; thinking about my relationship to the person I will be reviewing and tailoring my feedback for that individual; planning ahead for how I will handle any negative reactions; and determining an appropriate place and time to conduct the review.


3) When delivering the actual feedback, I need to avoid using the sandwich approach. Often managers (I fancy, especially green ones like me!) are uncomfortable about giving negative feedback. So we kick off with positive points, dragonfly in with one constructive piece of feedback and scuttle back into discussing positive performance. This method is otherwise known the “feedback sandwich”, although some (less polite) people call it another kind of sandwich. While one school of thought promotes this as a great way of administering positive and negative reinforcement, Ipe recommends being direct and constructive.

4) The last stage is follow-up. The two parties should develop an action plan that incorporates what was discussed during the review, and follow up to make sure the plan is being followed is critical.

With the next round of reviews around the corner, I am reminded feedback is not a one-way street - unless we’re talking Formula 1. Your charge will need to make pit stops along the road of improvement. Never mind how many, never mind if it’s a quick refuel or a tire-change. All that matters is that they pass the checkered flag.*

*Disclaimer: I have never watched a Formula 1 race, and actually have no idea why I chose that analogy.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

How I hire: you can't build a team with all point guards

Great article on hiring and ensuring your management team have a diverse set of approaches, views and skill sets.

There's some merit to the argument that in startups, having a small group with aligned thinking can be beneficial, because fast decision making is so critical, but once a business has gone through that stage introducing a diversity of thinking can be a big help.

Good to keep this in mind and not fall into the trap of hiring people like yourself.

via Geetika Marek Guz

Budgeting Search? What's the Point?

Good blog post on why it's better to have an ROI target rather than a budget for search engine marketing.

via @joelpinkham

Wednesday, October 2, 2013