The Next American Idol could be a Paint Salesman. What Hidden Talents are you Missing?


Tuesday night, I was watching Idol with the family. Lee DeWyze, a local kid, was standing on the stage receiving high praise from the Idol judges. DeWyze is now one of the final two contestants and, in a week, could be “the Next American Idol”.  What does this have to do with business or HR?  Here’s my take: It was clear Lee was stunned that he was in this position. Not long ago, he was a paint salesman from Mt. Prospect, IL and now a nationally recognized musician. Lee DeWyze was a guy in one job that had huge hidden talents for another.  Clearly, his musical talents wouldn’t have translated to a different position in the paint shop but you may have folks in your business doing fine in one job but having mad skills for another. How would you know? I propose the following:

  • Ask: You or other leaders in your business should try and understand the motivations and objectives of your people. Whether it’s during goal setting time or periodic reviews, explore and understand all the skills and desires of your employees.
  • Listen: Can’t tell you how many times I have had team members ask for an opportunity very different from their current position. I haven’t always been accommodating but, if I saw the right spark, I encouraged the idea.

  • Experiment: A good first step. Even though each person has a role that is important to the day-to-day functioning of the business, I would encourage a program of “extracurricular” activities. These activities could be anything from evaluating new product opportunities to ideas about breaking into new markets to assessing current manufacturing processes. Engage people from all disciplines. These projects allow you to assess the competencies of your people in an area outside of their current job. And even if you don’t find somebody with crazy hidden skills, you have established a good way to develop and stretch your people and improve your business.

So, Lee DeWyze may not win Wednesday night but I would guess his days as a paint salesman are over.

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