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Winning Isn’t Everything.

When you agree to be a volunteer for your local HR association or state council, you hope to become a part of a great team; one that will support your efforts, tell you when you’ve done a great job AND most important – you hope they’ll care enough about you to give you constructive criticism when it’s needed. I have served on the board of four different HR organizations and I have learned (and continue to learn) a lot from my HR mentors and friends.

After serving as the President of EMA (now known as SMA South Florida), I was asked to join the HR Florida State Council as a District Director. Being the “Switzerland of South Florida” as I’ve been called, they felt I’d be able to keep the peace in my district. The chapters were a bit competitive back then – but that competition helped to keep us on our toes.

The competitive spirit that HR folks have was evident during the SHRM Leadership Conference that I attended recently in Washington DC. This annual event is hosted by SHRM and 900+ HR volunteers from around the country attended this year. There is the serious business of the Pinnacle Awards that chapters and state councils vie for by submitting their most outstanding achievements and contributions. HR Florida was a finalist and we didn’t win this year, but it sure was fun to wear our matching scarves to the dinner and cross our fingers and toes via Twitter.

An HR volunteer with that same competitive spirit was SMA South Florida’s Past-President Larry Kohn, co-founder of Graymark Security Group and husband to Jackie Kohn (who started the SMA chapter here in South Florida). Larry was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back. He was also the kind of guy who would challenge you and make you think – even when you didn’t want to. If you told Larry that the sky was blue, he’d turn it into a lesson about the color wheel and make you figure out what SHADE of blue it really was so you’d know for the next time.

Less than 2 years ago, Larry found out he had cancer. At first he wasn’t going to submit to any treatments because he didn’t want to be a burden to his family; maybe deep down inside, he knew this was one battle he wasn’t going to win. But Larry was one of us – an HR volunteer. He was going to fight until he could fight no more. And just like a true HR pro, he looked out for everyone else and made sure those around him were taken care of first. He did it with dignity, he did it with class. He even made sure that the Publix Pharmacy received flowers the day after he passed away, which was on November 8th.

There is no doubt that it’s important that we stay on top of our game and stay competitive – but winning isn’t everything. When all is said and done, what’s important is how we played the game; how we made people feel, what we contributed without expecting in return. That in my opinion is the true meaning of winning.

Deborah HermanDeborah is “Your Recruitment Business Partner” at DH Talent Strategies, LLC in Pompano Beach, FL. She’s a blogger at, and an HR professional with 20 plus years of director-level experience in staffing, marketing and employment communications. Deborah is also proud to serve as a District Director for HR Florida State Council.

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