Friday, November 14, 2008
Besides the fact that Henry Paulson is an awful speaker (How was he the CEO of Goldman Sachs? What does it say about that company?), he violated the basic principles of trust: Reciprocity and Transparency.
Reciprocity: We wanted Mr. Paulson to speak to us about the immense economic challenge in the language we are most comfortable with. Yes, we know that he has his own agenda and the public has problems understanding the severity and depth of the current economic crisis. However, he should have communicated to us as if he wanted to help the public through the crisis, thereby allowing the public to give him real support and instill the desire in us for him to succeed. We know that he was an utter failure in that regard. The whole language of bailout and Wall Street and Main Street was just such PR disaster, tons of books will be published just about these few days in October.
Even with this bad start and the US public completely distrusting the Bush administration, the majority of US citizen felt no choice other than trusting Henry Paulson. A bad speaker, a bad PR person, a bad communicator. But we felt he tried to do the best job. He tried to use all his knowledge, all the experts he could talk to, all his resources to get us out of this mess. And he came up with a plan. Flawed, sure. But a plan that worked its way through the public, the Congress and we accepted it. But while we were still digesting the enormity of this package, he switched gears. Changed the plan. And he didn't tell anybody about it. Just his cronies. And that's where transparency comes in.
Transparency is a means of building trust. Transparency is based on 'Show, don't tell." Yes, he told the story bad but now we wanted to see the execution of the plan. And we heard that the execution of the plan is confidential, and, by the way, the whole plan had changed. We took his word for it in October and now we wanted to judge ourselves if the plan was working. Instead, he changed his plan in secrecy and now his word means nothing anymore. I'm not here to judge if it was dishonest. It certainly undermined our trust. Or even destroyed it. And that's the at the core of this crisis: Lack of confidence and trust. He made it even worse. Maybe the best intentions.
As Albert Camus said: "The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding."