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As Sandra McCartt might say about the government pointing to all the positive signs in the economy, "Just because a chicken has wings don't mean it can fly." Today we found out that Ken Lewis, the teetering CEO of Bank of America, testified that Bernanke and Paulson and "...the government wanted him to keep quiet while the two sides negotiated government funding to help BofA absorb Merrill and its huge losses." SOP has a bank notifying its shareholders of materially significant financial hits. But McCartt might offer, "You can put your boots in the oven, but that don't make 'em biscuits."

Sadly, it was learned yesterday with more information coming today that Fannie Mae CFO David Kellermann committed suicide. Sure he was well compensated - I can almost hear people saying that why should he be paid so much when others have lost their houses and life savings. This is mind-numbing any way you look at it but a solution needs to be found for everyone to survive. So while McCartt might say "It don’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep", given the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac scenario, it's going to take more than just a genius to get us out of it. She might also add in response to all these smart people with a better solution, "Big hat, no cattle."

Consider this about the late Kellermann...

He was losing weight and telling friends that it seemed impossible to appease everyone — regulators, lawmakers, investors and other executives — given their competing demands. Someone was always angry with him, he told one friend.

Competing demands? Kellermann was in a role where he was trying to help everyone save face and I suspect none of the demanding parties cared about the others - nor Kellermann. Kellermann found out that, and as Sandra might say, "Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier’n puttin’ it back in." Although he didn't let them out, Kellermann was trying to get the cats back inside - he was actually doing his job. Who accepts responsibility for this one? Think anyone will stand up?

What irks me is that NOW people are sympathetic with Kellermann now that he's gone; what ever happened to daily kindness and understanding? Why don't people "git'it" that in times like these a sense of humanity should be part of everything we do? Are people that self-centered and daft; or as Sandy might say, "They're as dumb as a box of hammers."

As much as Lewis is being eviscerated and Kellermann is going to be questioned, they were doing their jobs - I suspect as best as they knew how in such a noxious environment (that includes economic, regulatory, social, etc). I'm beginning to believe that few care as long someone else's actions don't impact their lives or livelihoods. When one is proverbially hit by a sucker punch - as the black hole of mortgage-backed securities turned out to be - then the finger pointing starts flowing from people who, as McCartt might say, "Couldn't pour piss out of a boot with a hole in the toe and directions on the heel."

Consider this true story of a couple from San Fran who had to fly on a moment's notice to Portland, Oregon because the woman's mom was on her death bed.

Arriving at the airport, the man pleaded with those already in line and their kindness rewarded the couple with a trip to the ticket counter. With a bit of luck and some understanding from the airline, they could make the earliest flight. Until (from a letter sent to United CEO, Glenn Tilton)...

To my utter amazement, your agent handed me back my record locator number, looked me straight in the eye, and informed me that she couldn't ticket me because "it was time for her to go on her break." I wasn't sure I heard her correctly, so I repeated the nature of our emergency. Again, your agent informed me that it was time for her break, "she had no choice," and that if I had a problem with it, I could talk to her supervisor.

Sandra? "This ticket agent is so stupid that if you moved her plate five inches to the left she'd starve to death."

How true. It got better...

I argued with this woman for a good 10 minutes, growing increasingly agitated. Even those passengers who had let me move to the front of the line voiced their objections. She did nothing to assist me, choosing instead to continue to quote company policy. Why she didn't just leave to go on her break is beyond me. Before she finally left, she placed a call to her supervisor and said, in a very sarcastic tone, that there was a customer at the counter "whose mother is sick and dying and who wants to hold a flight and speak with a supervisor." She refused to provide me with her name or employee number.

Yes Sandra, I was thinking the same thing: "If dumb was dirt, she'd cover about an acre."

Running to the gate hoping to speak to a human and actually catch the early, they were met with,

I explained our ordeal to the gate agent, who simply provided me with some "United-style" sympathy: not only could he not re-open the gate, but he told me that he could understand the behavior of the ticketing agent because "management really makes us work some unreasonable schedules."

Talk about a corporate culture that has engineered kindness and sympathy out of its employees, right Sandra? "Sure as shit these United bozos haven't learned that if you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is stop diggin'."

"My girlfriend's mother passed away at 2:50 AM, shortly after we arrived in Portland. We will, of course, never know what we might have been able to share with her in the two and a half hours we burned sitting at a gate at SFO."

There you have it: People who have jobs put don't put in the effort to help the company succeed. Kellermann was sure trying and as much as I think he's done a poor job, I believe Lewis was trying too. But clearly not these people from United.

I have a suggestion for recruiters who are adding or will be adding people to the payrolls: Throw in some questions to ascertain kindness, empathy, sympathy, and effort. Not motivation or drive but effort. Work your magic and get these traits cemented into the must-have side of the recruiting ledger. Most of your employees will not be superstars no matter what your lying career page may say.

"Fives" come up with ideas and can push a company over the tipping point but solid "threes" are your foundation.

As Sandra might say, "If you're ridin' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there."

Views: 16

Tags: america, bank, fannie, freddie, lewis, mac, mae, mccartt, sandra, united

Comment by Steve Levy on April 24, 2009 at 7:38am
Sandra, I know you'll feel different about this
Comment by Steve Levy on April 24, 2009 at 12:20pm
My point here is that these are 1929-like times and no one has prepared GenXYZers for the stress. Not everyone is like you and me (lol)...

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