Taking the Lead

       "I'm glad to be with you here at V-105," I said during the first staff meeting. "You have a good station. But we're going to take it higher. That means excellence. You and I can make V-105 sound as professional as any station coming out of Nashville. Sure, we'll all have to stretch our skills. But we can do it if we pay attention to details."
       "And, speaking of details ... "
       Cleaning up transitions back and forth between the satellite network and the local news, weather, and commercials was my first priority.  We discussed setting up for the next break immediately after the last; not leaving the control room during shifts, even when the network was playing; and the importance of timing every break to the second. The philosophy of professionalism didn't sound bad. Putting it into practice presented a few complications.
       Rick scowled. "What do you mean, do it over?"
       "Just that. Do it over. Rewrite the commercial till it fits in thirty seconds," I answered.
       "But I've already spent half an hour on this lousy thirty-second commercial."
       "It's not a thirty-second commercial yet. Cut it till it is."
       "It's o-o-only thirty-seven seconds."
       "But seven seconds extra will muddy the transition back to the network. If we're going to sound professional, a thirty-second commercial needs to be just that -- thirty seconds."
       "I've tried everything!" he wailed. "I can't cut it anymore."
       "Let's take a look."
       Before long, we'd pared one sentence and made a couple other word changes. He read the whole thing over again. "All right, all right. You win," Rick conceded. "It'll fit thirty seconds and..."  He smirked and rolled his eyes. "...and it's stronger now than it was before." He grinned and headed for the production room to re-record the commercial.
       Some employees caught a glimpse of the potential of V-105 and got excited about sounding professional. Others just put in their time, took out their paychecks, and dubbed me "Mr. Perfect."
       So be it, I'm good at what I do. The owner of the station knows it. Some of the employees have figured it out already, and the rest will.
       But there's more to management than personal excellence. I had figured out what the station needed. But I still hadn't mastered the art of inspiring employees to want to do what's best for the company.
       The word personable nagged at my mind. I worked at it. At least once or twice a day, I pulled myself away from the computer and my own work and wandered among the other employees. "How are the sales going?" I might ask of the salesperson. "How was your weekend?" "I hear your daughter was chosen as a cheerleader." I was even learning to listen.
       I hadn't been at the station long when Jennifer, the receptionist/bookkeeper, blurted, "Jay, I've got a friend you ought to meet. She's pretty, lots of fun. She'd be perfect for you.
       "Thanks. But no thanks!" I exclaimed.
       "But nothing," I interrupted. "I've had enough of romantic relationships to last at least the rest of this lifetime! Maybe a few more."
       Surprise crossed her face. She snickered. "As if you get more than one."
       "I'm planning on it," I said, totally serious.
       She looked at me quizzically for a long moment then grabbed the telephone log off her desk. "Did you get the message from John at the satellite network in Dallas?"
       So much for her spiritual interest, I thought.
       I often dropped hints about reincarnation into the station chit chat, then tried to detect an interest in spiritual things.  No one nibbled.
       Just days after I had arrived in Waverly, I'd scouted around for a church like the one I had enjoyed in Everett. Nothing close. But there was one with the same name in Nashville -- a couple hours' drive away. Maybe I couldn't go every week, but I could part of the time.
       An answering machine greeted me with the church name and "There's no one available to take your call at the moment, but you are important to us. Please leave your name and phone number so we can get back to you. Our services are: Sunday School at 9:30; Worship service at 11:00; and Bible study at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesdays. Bring your Bible if you can. And, remember, Jesus loves you.
       Bring your Bible? Jesus loves you? I questioned. Sounds like a traditional church. Disappointed, I laid the receiver in its cradle.
       If only there was someone with whom to share spiritual insights! I'd keep looking.
       Outside of the superficial acquaintances at work, my only relationship was with my dog.  Inki shadowed me everywhere -- induding work. She snoozed on a blanket by my office desk or tripped along unobtrusively behind me from office to control room to reception area. When the weather was comfortable, she rode along when I went on sales calls. I figured that anyone who'd stick by a person in the worst of times -- like she had by me -- deserved to be pampered.
       "If he'd treat a woman half as good as he treats his dog," some of the employees joked, "he'd still be married to his first wife." Maybe so. But I wasn't about to take any chances.
       When loneliness hit, I just worked more. There was always plenty to do. Besides hiring and training the sales and air staff, I did some of the selling, did some air work, and provided general management. I buried myself in the job -- usually seven days a week, sixty or seventy hours a week. More sometimes.
       Rick stepped into my office one afternoon. "Do you remember hearing about Annette?"
       How could I help but remember? Annette had worked at V-105 before I arrived. Sales staff begged me to rehire Annette to write commercials -- "She did a fantastic job!" Announcers told me Annette would be a good person to consider if we ever needed anyone else at the control board. The receptionist said, "Annette worked hard. She was always professional, always pleasant. She was such a delight to have around." And customers asked, "Can Annette tape this commercial?" The only crack in the list of glowing recommendations was one person who growled, "About Annette, don't get any ideas about hiring her. She's nothing but trouble. She'll call the last minute and say she's not coming to work. Or just not show up. She's undependable." I'd pondered the contradiction.
       "Yes," I replied, "I remember hearing about Annette."
       "Well, she's out here. She just stopped in to say 'Hello' to everyone. While she's here, why don't you come meet her?"
       Curious, I jumped at the chance to meet this "saint" of V-105. She was talking to Jennifer as we approached. She was short. Wavy, auburn hair cascaded to her hips. Her voice was strong and clear.
       Rick spoke. "Annette."
       She turned toward him. "Hi, Rick."
       A light sprinkle of freckles across her nose and cheeks hinted of little-girl innocence, yet her smile shone with a warmth gained through experience.
       "This is Jay Christian, our new manager," Rick continued.
       She offered her hand. "Nice to meet you."
       "Nice to meet you," I returned. "I've heard lots of good reports about your work here."
       She smiled again. Her eyes snapped. "I enjoyed working here."
       We talked briefly before I headed back to my office. Good radio voice, I thought. Very pleasant. And she seems intelligent and professional.  Given the repeated recommendations, I'll have to keep her in mind -- just in ease.
       "Just in case" arrived sooner than I expected. Just a few weeks later, the Sunday afternoon board operator told me he was taking another job. Who could fill the bill?
       I dialed the telephone. "Good morning, Annette. This is Jay Christian at V-105."
       "Good morning."
       "Our Sunday afternoon control board operator just accepted another job. I'm looking for someone who can run the board from 1:00 to 7:00 Sunday afternoons and who could also record commercials and help with remote broadcasts. Would something like that be of interest to you?"
       At the interview three days later, we discussed Annette's experience, her skills, and the times she could and could not work. She could work 1:00 to 7:00 on Sunday afternoons, but she clearly stated times she could not work because of her other job and times she would not work because of her religious convictions.
       I told her my plans for improving the professionalism at the station and let her know my expectations. She asked intelligent questions and indicated an interest in improving her skills.
       Annette started to leave then turned back. "I thoroughly enjoy radio," she said, her amber eyes sparkling. "I'd really like the job."
       Again, I was impressed with Annette's voice. Excellent air potential! I thought. But I questioned having to schedule radio time around her other job and around her church and other religious commitments. "I'll work anytime I can," she'd said. But, though tactful in stating her convictions, she'd made it clear that God came first.
       Well, who else is there? Previous advertising hadn't turned up much potential air talent in this town of 4500. Could Annette work out? I wondered.
       I stared at the wall in front of my desk. She hasn't had much training, but she seems to have talent. I can train her if she's willing to learn, and she seems to be. Infact, kind of seems like a radio diamond in the rough. Her lack of training really isn't a problem.
       The question is, will we be able to work around her schedule limitations? I leaned on my elbow. If we don't hire someone, I'll be adding those hours to my work week.
       I straightened up in my chair and dialed the telephone. "Annette?"
       "Jay Christian at V-105. Can you start next Sunday at 1:00?"
       "I'll be there."
       She trained Thursday. Notebook in hand, she took detailed notes on how to operate the control board, how to place the commercials and weather in the proper order, how to control the transmitters, what to do in emergencies, and much more.
       Will she be here when she's supposed to work alone? I wondered. Then another thought struck. If she does show up, considering that religion is important enough to her to risk a job over, I'll check out her spiritual interest.
       Whatever, given the second opinion about Annette's reliability, I'll stay at the station next Sunday until aJter her scheduled arrival ... just in case.


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