By: Suzanne Bates

Fitbit makes wearable devices that track the wearer’s daily steps, calories burned, and floors climbed, as well as sleep duration and quality. Some of its products also track heart rate and collect information about speed, distance, and exercise routes. The result is a trove of data that users can track and, if they so wish, share with friends. It has a pantheon of famous wearers including Shaquille O’Neal and President Obama.

The company is the pioneer in wearable fitness-tracking devices and as I was writing this, shareholders were set to raise more than $600 million in an IPO that was expected to be the fifth-largest U.S. IPO this year.  It’s more than a craze.  There’s competition.   Predictions are that Apple Watch will soon be running right up on Fitbit's heels. 

I just ordered one (very happy to see that I’ll also be able to be stylish, with a designer cover by Tory Burch).  The only reason I waited this long is because I’ve been rather attached to the “eight-track-cassette tape” version of wearable fitness – the good ol’ reliable pedometer.  Two years ago, I purchased one as part of our office fitness program.  I love this thing.  Just ask my husband.  More than a few times I’ve forced him to return to the house to retrieve it or had a meltdown over leaving it in the bin of the airport security checkpoint, sure it would be lost.

I had no idea how motivating it would be to track my steps.  I’ve been a consistent exerciser all my life, but I never tried to gauge my progress unless I was on a treadmill.  This simple device got me out of bed in the morning and pushed me to do more.  During the summer on Cape Cod if I was able to get in 18 holes of golf and walk three or four miles, I was able to push that little button and see a satisfying 13,000 steps or more in the window.  

The point is that we often under appreciate how satisfying it is to measure our progress, until we do.   Even the least sophisticated method of measurement is a thousand times better than none at all.  I’ve noticed this trend in our executive coaching business. Executive management and boards of directors have been asking more and more, “How are we doing?”-  and they deserve to know.  It’s not just about ROI.  It’s simply satisfying to see your people progress and to have leading rather than lagging indicators.  We’ve been able to show them that even in the so-called “softer” side of executive development, you can track hard data. 

Another argument for measurement is that it can keep people from falling too far behind.  When I fall behind on my minimum steps, I feel bad.  I lace up my Asics and out the door I go - happy to get caught up.  I think when we give leaders in coaching programs a chance to track their progress with assessment, it puts a spring in their step, too.      

Just as in fitness, measurement in coaching is getting more sophisticated.  We’re better able in our business to notice leading indicators, and not just rely on the lagging noes.  It’s a whole lot better to track miles, stairs, and sleep, than to wait until your annual stress test and learn you’re on the verge of a health crisis. 

So I’ll soon be putting the old pedometer in the drawer, and trading it in for the new model of Fitbit.  But you know, I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it.  I’ll keep it there.  It reminds me of how I fell in love with the idea of measurement.     

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