One day, a few short years after my initial job with Southern Bell driving all over the state working on our microwave radio and cable network, I was promoted to a new job in another
department. It was called Independent Company Relations and the group was responsible for business arrangements with small telephone companies that connected lines with Southern Bell in Kentucky.
My new boss had read a formal report I wrote up after my investigation of outage problems with a major microwave route in the eastern part of the state. The outages were traceable to faulty switching of the diversity systems during heavy fog. I think he was impressed with the report and was looking for a young, technically oriented guy for his job opening.
When I showed up on the first day for the new job my predecessor J.D. Roberts introduced me to the staff I was to manage and we sat at his desk discussing my new job.
“What’s this job all about, J.D.?” I asked. J.D. kept an immaculately clean desk and one could
wonder if any work went on there at all. Except for his telephone, it was as clear as a gymnasium floor. Pulling open the empty top drawer of his desk, he replied, “Weellll Leo, it’s really very simple. See this top drawer? It’s my in-basket; you just keep this empty. And see this bottom drawer (quite full)? It’s my out-basket and you just keep it full. That’s really all there is to it.”
Still being a fool at only 27 years of age, I said, “You know, I think I can handle that.” Little did I know. Within a couple days, the sheer volume of correspondence, forms to review, contracts to read, telephone calls ringing off the hook made the place seem a madhouse of activity. My desk was a mound of files, papers, letters, memos, telephone slips, and it looked more like a landfill than a gymnasium floor. After struggling with this frantically for a few days, Mary Rose Thompson, our office secretary being wise as well as discrete, came over and sitting down, offered me a little friendly advice. Learn to dictate and delegate.
After a while, I did learn to manage the job rather than let it manage me. The fine help I had made a big difference. My desk was never quite as spotless and clear as J.D. Roberts’ but I did use his inbox/outbox drawer system.