Meet Helen Campbell, the Center Support Leader for Customer Support and Services at Southwest Airlines in San Antonio, Texas. In this role, she is responsible for communicating and supporting the vision of Customer Support and Services and the Company, and developing leaders. A 31-year Southwest Airlines Employee, Helen began her career journey with Southwest in 1987 and she is a true example of how working hard and having a passion for what you do can propel you into a fulfilling career.
As Helen reflects on the beginning of her career with Southwest, she would tell her younger self that working for Southwest “is not just a job—it’s a career.” She recognizes that in 1987 she didn’t fully understand her capabilities, but Southwest Airlines allowed her to explore her strengths and gave her opportunities to reach her full potential. Helen is grateful to Southwest and all of her team members, past and present, who have served as mentors, and ultimately taught her what it means to be a Servant Leader. The lessons and advice she learned along the way from her mentors and peers are the things Helen now carries in her Suitcase for Success! Here are a few lessons that Helen will never forget that she picked up on her career journey.
Lesson # 1: Be a Team Player
One of the most valuable lessons Helen has learned is the importance of being a Servant Leader. Being a Servant Leader means one must believe in the importance of teamwork. Helen explained, “Working for Southwest Airlines is truly a team effort. We all have to work together as a team to reach our individual and shared goals.” As a reflection of her team spirit, Helen spends the first hour of her day engaging with the front line operations team to assess any problems that arise and provide assistance as needed. That’s what being a team player is all about—working with your team members and lending a helping hand!
Lesson #2: Always Come Prepared
Helen mentioned that one of the ongoing jokes at the office is that she carries anything and everything in her purse. I started to believe this was actually true when Helen mentioned one of her “go-to” travel items is an extension cord… practical right?! Being prepared goes beyond simply having the essential tangible tools needed, it also involves having the soft skills needed to support your team. Helen shared, “My favorite aspect of my job is developing leaders, and working together to achieve the same goal.” A large part of her role as the Center Support Leader involves monitoring and analyzing performance results of the Center. This allows her to take a look at the work her team is doing, and identify which goals are being met and which ones are not being met. By knowing your team and your business, finding solutions in the workplace becomes a lot easier.
Lesson #3: Be an Inclusive Leader
Helen values how many of her leaders throughout her career have made her feel appreciated and respected. This is an environment she aims to create for her team now as their Center Support Leader. She emphasized, “As a leader, you want to create a platform for Employees to have a voice. You want to create an environment where they feel comfortable voicing their opinions. A huge part of this is being an active listener and having a conversation with Employees when they come to you to share their opinions. It’s crucial to ensure others feel valued and heard. I have had this experience with my Leaders at Southwest and I try to do the same for others.”
Lesson #4: Celebrate Successes
Who says athletic victories are the only ones that should be celebrated? Certainly, not Helen! Helen understands the importance of celebrating her team’s successes to encourage collaboration and to recognize the value each person brings to the team. It can be something as simple as giving a team member a high five or starting a round of applause in a team meeting. She treats any team victory as a critical success and encourages her team to do the same. Helen believes the success of one team member is a success for the whole team!
Lesson #5: A Lesson for the Future You
The final piece of advice Helen shared for young women learning how to navigate their career paths is “Don’t be afraid to take on new challenges and have confidence in your abilities. Always be open to feedback and see that openness as a gift. Have a voice and know that others want to hear what you have to say. In the end, simply be open to learning and share your knowledge with others.”
Learning is a lifelong journey that allows us to adapt to new challenges and promotes personal growth. As Helen has demonstrated and shared, being open to learning new things and teaching others is important in any career. Helen hopes all of us will take her lessons and carry them in our Suitcases for Success.
Contributor: Ally Massimi