“Here at IMNZ, we love to celebrate great leaders and showcase what they’ve learned along their path to becoming great. We wanted to know more about the challenges new managers face, so we chatted with Dale Clareburt from Weirdly and discovered what took her by surprise and forced her to adapt fast.”
The moment Dale Clareburt, Co-Founder and CEO of Weirdly, knew with certainty that she’d lead a team was when she discovered what really creates a strong leader. “When I realised that leaders made mistakes I realised that I can be a great one because I make lots of them but I learn from them really quickly. I think that’s the fastest way you can learn. You’ve got to go in, make a mistake, learn from that mistake, then you won’t do it again,” she laughs.
Making mistakes means you’re human, she says, adding that laughter really is the best medicine when it comes to being a manager. “Luckily I have a great sense of humour, and I actually like being wrong,” she says. “So when I make mistakes I laugh at them and I share that with my team because everyone makes mistakes and I think that it’s good to actually enjoy that moment and realise you’re not invincible as a manager, and by sharing that mistake everybody can learn.”
When Dale stepped into her first managerial role in her mid-twenties her learning curve was steep but her rewards huge. “The expectations were that I had the confidence to do it. But in reality the job was a lot different than what I was expecting. “A lot of people need you as a manager,” she adds. “They need you there to support them, to facilitate the tools they need and the training they need, and you actually have to spend all of your time doing that.”
But what Dale hadn’t considered in her first role was that she’d unwittingly agreed to undertake two roles. “I had to do the same job as everyone in my team but also manage the team to success, and it was really hard juggling that.”
And Dale’s measure of success came completely out of left field. “I got so much joy out of seeing other people succeed,” she beams. “One of the most surprising things I learned as a new manager was sometimes your team earns more than you do, and that actually made me feel good because it meant that they were succeeding and I was doing my job well.”
Dale’s success as a leader was rapid, seeing her become a chief operating officer less than five years after having been appointed a first-time manager. She says critical to her success was her being observant and open in her role. “You’re helping other people to succeed in their jobs and that’s something that’s really important to note in your first year,” says Dale, adding that the key to achieving success is to listen first, and act second.
“Listen to the new employees or the new people in your team, and try and earn their trust as fast as you can,” she urges. “Don’t go in all guns blazing and trying to change the world straight away. “You’ve got to go in and learn your own natural leadership style and understand that everyone else has completely different styles. I’ve learnt to adapt to the styles of all of my people through experience, and through training,” she adds.
Dale says that perspective is the most powerful tool for first-time managers. “It’s OK if you don’t get it all done in one day. Just make sure that you look at your time management, write a list, and then set expectations with your team, and expectations with your manager. Just ensure that you meet those goals that you need to.”
Dale adds that the managers of the future will have new challenges not necessarily faced by the current generation of managers. “We’re looking at moving into remote workforces, and part time workforces,” she says. “We’re looking at people that are coming into work for a short time not for a long time. It’s not that I’m going to start in one organisation and stay there forever.
“We’re going to have to nurture leaders that are going to be able to cope, or manage and support people that have many different career paths and many many different motivators. We need to create a support network of people who are sharing those experiences; a real ecosystem of support.” But Dale adds that the key to successful leadership is keeping a sense of humour.
“I always put humour into everyday,” she says. “Not everything has to be totally serious all the time. If you have fun with your team – some shared lunches, tell jokes, share memes – it can make a positive difference.”