by Bill, Think About It...

One More Time – Appearances Can Be Deceiving: Thank You Susan Boyle

1 Comment 17 April 2009

People who have had the pleasure of meeting Wal-Mart founder, Sam Walton, or blind mountain climber, Erik Weihenmayer have quickly come to grips with the fact that appearances can be deceiving – very deceiving. In neither case do initial appearances suggest their respective incredible talents and accomplishments.

Though you’d think that sooner or later we’d get it, many of us seem destined to learn the same lesson over and over again. It is as though we’re “stuck on stupid” to use an expression borrowed from Lt. Gen. Russel Honore (US Army, ret.). We’re constantly “amazed” when someone who has had every conceivable advantage (name your favorite Hollywood pop-tart) steps on their crank, and, when someone who has not enjoyed the genetic blessings, plastic surgery, private lessons, or 1st rate education hits it out of the park. Go figure.

Susan Boyle, the Scottish singer with a rather plain-Jane appearance seems to have taught the most recent lesson. Her wonderfully performed rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables in the first round of the third series of Britain’s Got Talent on April 11 left Simon Cowell and lots of others speechless. Good for her. And, whereas Mr. Cowell may play a bully on TV, he’s smart enough to recognize talent when he sees it, and will likely attempt to sign her to a recording contract.

As for the rest of us, let’s try to get beyond our learning disabilities on this one. That is particularly the case for those of us who are talent scouts for the organizations we work for. An 8.5% unemployment rate notwithstanding, the war for talent isn’t over! You will find talent in both likely and unlikely places, in traditional and non-standard packages, in people who look the part and those who don’t. You’ve simply got to be looking for it, all the time, with eyes, ears, and mind wide open. Got it?

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at



- who has written 228 posts on Contented Cows.

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1 comment

  1. Isabell Currie (a very good friend of Richard and CHristine Hadden from Scotland says:

    Susan Boyle has taught everyone in the UK a lesson this week, not to judge a book by its cover. It is refreshing to note the number of people who appreciated her marvellous voice and who stood up to be counted regarding her appearance. It has taught people here to look deeper than the surface in this all too materialistic world when judging someone’s worth.

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Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

OUR PREMISE: Having a focused, engaged, and capably led workforce is one of the best things any organization can do for its bottom line.



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