The Wake-Up Call

“NOT GOOD.” I stared at these two words and they seemed to glare back, almost as if they were alive and taunting me. I was completely stunned, my stomach was in a knot and my inner voice was in a red-alert conversation with my emotions. NOT GOOD were the two simple words that my boss had handwritten on an inventory report that showed my organization had fallen slightly behind in conducting monthly equipment inventories. I tried to make sense of the note and put things in perspective but my emotions had taken over.

Disbelief was the ring leader of the Gang of Four, the villains that hijacked my rational thought process. Anger, Defensiveness, and Fear were the other three members of the gang. When they joined forces they were highly skilled at clouding my thinking. If the Gang of Four had their way, I would have rushed up to my boss’s office and explained the situation. With adrenaline pumping through my veins I would have reminded him that my organization had been performing at a very high level and that we’d just finished an extended and demanding training cycle. Now that we were back, I’d get things back on track. After all, I knew that the inventories were important.

Thankfully I didn’t go see my boss; that would have been a rookie mistake and really stupid to boot. After some hard internal sparring, my hero, Rationalization, beat the Gang of Four and saved the day. Armed with Rationalization, I realized that my boss’s note was a mild wake-up call. With two simple words he was saying, “Don’t coast on your success and forget that, as a leader, you are responsible for not letting basic things slip.” If I’d been in real trouble, he wouldn’t have sent a note, we would have had a face-to-face conversation.

My boss never mentioned the note and neither did I. I made sure that my team’s inventories got back on track. Throughout the rest of my career, I always remembered the two words that woke me up.


Photo by Szűcs László on Unsplash

Scroll to Top