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What My Smart Watch Reminded Me About Managing Marketers

Picture of Fossil Q Explorist smart watch in silver with silicone band and minimalist watch face

I recently got a smart watch. It’s the one pictured in this post. I intentionally chose this model by Fossil because I wanted a watch that looked like a watch, where most other smart watches look more techy.

Being a watch guy, I was excited about the prospect of changing out watch faces with the ease of a swipe. Want a new watch? Just cruise the app store. A new face might run me a dollar or two. A new non-smart watch would typically run hundreds of dollars or more.

So I installed several analog-style watch faces. Many of them used anthropomorphic design, using visual tricks to try and imitate the depth and dimension of real watch faces.

But I found it entirely unsatisfying.

The more of these watch faces I tried, the more frustrated I became. They just didn’t feel right. For a short time, I even considered returning my new smart watch.

So I tried something different.

I downloaded some watch faces that didn’t try to imitate real watch faces. I tried minimalist ones. I tried graphical ones. I tried ones using flat design.

These watch faces didn’t try to be something they weren’t. They weren’t forced. They were watch faces designed for a smart watch. The designers of these faces understood their medium and used its strengths while being cognizant of its weaknesses.

That’s when I was reminded—we need to do the same thing when managing digital marketers.

Not have them try on different faces until we find one that we like. I mean leverage their strengths, understand their weaknesses, and don’t try to force them into a preconceived notion of what their skill set should look like.

You’ll both find it highly unsatisfying if you try to force it.

This was a lesson I learned while helping develop a promising young marketer. He had plenty of raw skill. He had plenty of directions in which he could develop his skills. But I was a content marketing and content strategy guy, with content wisdom to share and, frankly, a need for help with content.

So I tried to push him to work on content development skills. He initially attacked those assignments with the same enthusiasm he attacked every project. But as time went on, I watched his excitement wane, his delivery dates slip and his productivity suffer.

I had tried to turn him into a mini-me. But the fact was, that he wasn’t a mini-me. He was a full-sized him.

I re-examined the situation. I looked at the assignments he enjoyed. The ones he excelled at. The ones he would brainstorm on in his spare time (usually a good indicator of an employee’s strongest interests).

I found chances for him to exercise those skills. Or I created them. I found others around us that could foster parts of his skill set I couldn’t. And of course, I talked to him about his interests and what he thought were his strengths and skill gaps (don’t underestimate the power of a good conversation).

He went on to be a great contributor because of it. Motivation grew. Performance followed. And frustration for all involved faded away. Because, just like my smart watch, marketers do best when you don’t try and force them to be something they’re not.

You might be ready to let go of a marketer like I was ready to let go of my Fossil. But if you let them excel at being what they’re best suited to be, you might also end up just as happy and I am with my new wrist computer. Seriously, I wear this thing every day.


Hal Werner
Hal Werner
Hal Werner is a Dallas-area content strategist, digital marketer and idea man that loves bringing distinctive flavor and customer insight to every project.