Member Spotlight: Karla Shugart

HR manager
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

By Dori Meinert Nov 27, 2016
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Karla Shugart doesn’t know how to quit.Karla Shugart Photo by Brittany D. Lopez

When the president of her local Society for Human Resource Management chapter died suddenly in early 2014, chapter leaders were understandably devastated. The Texoma Human Resource Management Association in Sherman, Texas, dwindled to just 25 members and faced extinction.

After becoming the chapter’s membership committee chair in January 2016, Shugart met the challenge head-on—bringing the member count to 58 by fall. For her efforts, she was named the 2016 Texas Volunteer Leader of the Year.

Maybe her “can-do” spirit comes from her military training. She spent 12 years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, including two as a personnel officer. Or maybe she gets it from her heritage. In addition to being HR manager for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, she’s a member of that federally recognized Native American tribe. One of the Choctaw values is accountability, which she learned from her mother, who was also Choctaw.

“Not only do I take responsibility for my actions, I expect to be held accountable for outcomes and results,” she says.

What advice do you have for other struggling chapters?

Have perseverance. Every time someone tries to give me credit for the chapter turnaround, I just tell them I didn’t mind making a pest of myself and staying on top of it.

What’s your work philosophy?

I try to remember that work isn’t a popularity contest. Decisions need to be made based on what is best for the organization—not on personal feelings. I’ve also learned not to take anything personally. When students say they are going into HR because they love people, I urge them to think again. HR professionals are often the brunt of employees’ frustration.

What are you passionate about?

Advancing HR as a profession. Each of us has an obligation to continue learning, mentoring others, and modeling the highest standards of ethical and professional behavior. I never want someone to look at me or my staff and have a bad impression of HR because we don’t practice what we preach.

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