Kelly Merbler

I vividly remember when I was first promoted into a management role many moons ago. It was the big moment that I had been working towards since graduating from college. I couldn’t wait to put the title of “Manager” on my business card. Being in my 20’s, this was kind of a big deal for me. 

I had been a proven performer for a consistent number of years. In my mind, I was the obvious choice for the role when an opening became available. That’s just how it always worked! The top performers were the “chosen ones” who became the next managers. 

If I only knew then what I know now. I was not ready for the manager role just because I had big numbers and exceeded my sales goals. That should not have been the metrics which somehow translated into being ready for becoming responsible for others. 

I thought that if I just keep producing at high levels, my performance example would make me a good manager and everyone would follow me because they had to. I mean, I was the manager after all! 

As I reflect on those days, I have to giggle inside at all of the mistakes I made after making that transition. I simply didn’t know what I didn’t know. I followed the path that had been set by previous managers. 

I remember a time that I got so frustrated with an employee because she didn’t make her sales numbers. I embarrassed her in front of our entire team stating “that’s just not acceptable and you need to work harder”. I never even had a clue nor did I take the time to learn what she was going through that was the underlying reason for her lack of performance. Needless to say, she left the table crying. Weeks later I learned that a divorce had turned her life upside down. 

Not once did it cross my mind to sit down with her and understand if there was something driving her lack of performance. Nor did it cross my mind that I might coach her back to where she needed to be. 

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I kept thinking to myself, “I am doing the numbers as a manager, then she should be able to do it too”.  I would have never worked for me back in the day and it’s no wonder I had turnover on my team. 

Fast forward to today, I have learned so much about the differences between management and leadership. They are two words that could not be more opposite. 

Management is about processes, procedures, and systems of the organization. Companies need management in order to be successful for sure. 

On the other hand, people need leadership. 

People want to be inspired, led, and to make use of the talents that they have been given. Without that structure, the chances are strong that they will look elsewhere for it. 

Management and leadership both need to be in an organization to be successful, but treated very differently. 

I wrote this quote to maintain perspective, “If it doesn’t think, you manage it. If it has a thought, you lead it”.

Thank goodness for my mentor who picked me from the pile and taught me the difference.  

Many people think that leaders are born. We aren’t born with a leadership gene but do possess strengths in different areas. In fact, all leaders (good and bad) can become great with a good coach working with them consistently. 

The question is, do they want to, and are they willing to look in the mirror?

To your growth,


Kelly Merbler is the founding Principal of The Kelly Merbler Company, LLC, which is a leadership consulting firm based in South Florida, specializing in Strengths Based employee engagement and retention programs, culture building, keynote speaking and leadership development programs.

Be sure to catch Kelly’s break out sessions “Building a Values-Driven Culture” and “Inside Out Leadership” at NYC SHRM’s Annual Conference, Navigating Next. 

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