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How I Changed from a Boss to a Leader

Carri McQuerrey-Funk reveals how her life was turned upside down when she felt she had it all together and how she came back an even better leader and version of herself. 


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I Made It and I was Not to be Messed with

Have you ever thought, “I’VE MADE IT! I’ve achieved success that I never thought possible.”?

I have. I had things in life that I knew I wanted, but never dreamed would be mine. A great job, a new husband, three kids, a nice house, a nice car, great friends. Everything seemed perfect. 

Let me rewind. Yes—I already had a failed marriage. But, I remained (and to this day remain) friends with my ex-husband. We had an amazing son together, so that wasn’t terrible. I was a hardworking mom with no formal education past high school. I never thought, “Hmm—I want to be in collections when I grow up.” But, that’s where I ended up and I was good at it. 

I am the daughter of a Naval Officer. I watched my mom go back to school to get her nursing degree as an adult. Hard work and responsibility were nonnegotiable growing up in my house. They were ingrained in me. So, that’s exactly what I did. 

I worked hard and learned our business from the ground up. I was proud of myself. I went from a collector on the phone to a site director in just FIFTEEN short years! (Insert eye roll.) 

All kidding aside, I had super hard days. We all know how that goes. But, for the most part, I was killing it. My clients were happy, so not much else mattered. Today, when my friends and I look back on that time in my life, we refer to that version of me as Carri 1.0. This Carri was not to be messed with. It was, for sure, my way or the highway. There was no room in between. 

This Carri thought, “I’VE MADE IT!” It seemed like I had it all, until suddenly I didn’t.


Everything Changed

The date was October 23, 2007. It was a Tuesday. 

In a tragic accident in our home, our 2-year-old daughter, Madison, was killed. It was the first of several tragedies in my family in a very short span of time. My nephew and my twin brother would both die of cancer in late 2009 and early 2010. My life was flipped upside down. 

Before I go further, this isn’t a woe is me sob story. My life has been hard, but I’m a survivor. These tragedies changed my perspective. They changed how I thought about EVERYTHING. They changed how I lead. They ushered in the arrival of Carri 2.0.


I Became a Leader Instead of a Boss

At the time, I had been with NCO Group for 8 years, so my team saw the transformation that occurred and mostly welcomed it with open arms. It wasn’t easy. I changed my approach to most things. I started to be a LEADER, not a BOSS. Relationships matter. People work for their manager, not their company. 

I started reading all of the books—Lean In (Sheryl Sandberg, Nell Scovell), #GIRLBOSS (Sophia Amoruso), Gung Ho (Ken Blanchard, Sheldon Bowles), Raving Fans (Ken Blanchard, Sheldon Bowles), Lead, for God’s Sake (Todd Gongwer), Fail Until You Don’t (Bobby Bones)—I could go on and on. I wanted to be the best leader I could be. I still wanted to win (and I did still win), but I also wanted to make a difference. And guess what—YOU CAN DO BOTH! 

I think sometimes as women in business we get too caught up in being perceived as “too sensitive”—like that somehow reduces us or makes us less effective than a man. That’s not true. Because I am a woman, I can use my perspective and my influence in ways a man could only dream of. I’m just as, if not more, effective in getting things done, in creating and fostering a team that feels valued. 


Empowering My Team Made Me More Confident

I had been at NCO for 15 years. It was only my third job ever. EVER. I don’t leave jobs. Maybe it's hard to believe now, but I remember calling my husband during lunch and crying because I was so scared during my first week as a collector at Bank of America in 1997. That was typical Carri. I was very shy until I knew you. I was reserved and watched everything. Took it all in. It almost feels like I’m describing a stranger now. None of those characteristics are present today. 

I started to feel empowered as I was empowering my team. I gained a confidence that I had only ever faked before. I was ready to spread my wings and challenge the status quo.


Great Leaders are Committed to Your Growth and Development

I changed jobs. 

In February of 2014, I started my new role at Citizens Bank. I knew in order to feel good about a change this big, I wanted to work for someone who would be committed to my professional growth and development. Someone who is respected in our industry. Someone who empowers those on their team. If anyone knows Amy Perkins, you know she sure fits that description. I knew I had a lot to learn and I could trust her to help me elevate my career to the next level.

I’ve had a few roles during my time with Citizens Bank. Vendor management is my love, and I currently lead the Vendor Management team for Collections, Recovery & Initiative Execution. I continue to learn from women I respect and admire.

I know what I bring to the table and I’m confident I’ve earned my seat.