Pick partners and employees based on enthusiasm rather than skill

This weekend was very special for me.  A good friend asked me to officiate her wedding.

The whole experience was incredible.  Part of my official duties meant that I was sworn in as a judge for the day.  As an attorney, any shortcut you can find to becoming a judge is pretty exciting.

Saturday was the big day. We stood in an intimate room of friends and family and I carefully performed a very personal ceremony blending two existing families.  I had practiced for days.  I met with the bride to go over the general outline and ask for her input.  I met with the groom and their 3 kids to practice everyone’s speaking roles.

The ceremony I created included stories of how the bride and groom found each other, participation from family members sharing their best wishes, and a blending of families presentation where the bride and groom promised to be there for their existing and new kids alike. The kids (all under 7) promised to support a new brother or sister as well as mom and dad.  It was awesome.

After the ceremony, several people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the ceremony, and then told me stories of bad officiants at either their wedding or ones they had attended.  They described officiants who riffed their personal message in a very awkward fashion, individuals who got a lot of personal information about the bride and groom wrong, and ceremonies that were too rigid and impersonal.

When my friend first asked me to do this, I was very confused.  Didn’t she want someone with experience?  Wasn’t she worried that I would mess up this very important day?  She was always so confident in me.  And after all those conversations at the reception, I finally understood.  This wedding and the selection of an officiant was no different than putting together your company.  It’s always better to select employees and partners based on enthusiasm rather than skill.

I’m not saying that skill is of no importance.  There needs to be a minimum threshold.  My friend had seen me emcee business events and she knows that I write and speak.  And she was willing to accept the fact that I would figure out how to do the rest because I cared so much about her and her special day.  In retrospect, I probably spent a lot more time preparing, thinking about what I was going to say, and practicing than someone who performs hundreds of weddings per year.

If you are thinking about hiring someone or brining on a partner, make sure they have the same passion for your product/service that you do.   It’s much easier to pick up skills than attitude; and if you can find someone passionate enough about your venture, they will do whatever it takes to learn the skills they need to do their job.

This event also made me realize that experience is a very relative term.  Because I had never performed a wedding ceremony before, I wasn’t tied into an existing routine and could figure out something new.  I read a lot of wedding ceremony scripts, I watched a lot of wedding videos, and I spent some time reading forums about meaningful moments in wedding ceremonies.  My lack of experience actually proved to be a strength because, as many of the attendees pointed out afterwards, the ceremony was more intimate and personal than a traditional wedding.

If a new hire lacks traditional “experience” in performing a certain job but they have the minimum skills and outstanding enthusiasm to perform the tasks, they will likely bring a fresh perspective to an existing system or process.   They might help you evolve how it’s always been done before to a new, more efficient and impactful process.

Categories: Hiring | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Pick partners and employees based on enthusiasm rather than skill

  1. Great post. Enthusiasm for a project is a much better than motivation for money or equity.

  2. Laura

    Totally agree with your assessment, Diana. Most (though not all) tasks and roles in a start-up can be learned. Most of the time, members of a founding team need to wear many hats anyway so enthusiasm is indeed the key, rather than someone who is so specifically skilled that he/she feels uncomfortable performing tasks outside his/her “title”. There are exceptions, but this is a good general rule.

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