At a party after New Years I noticed a change in people’s attire – everyone I spoke with seemed to have new watches or bracelets made out of rubber of some kind. But they weren’t watches really, they were wearable technology.  Why were all of these people wearing them?  Because they think wearing them will help them get more fit.  Their idea is that the more data they have about what they’re doing, the more focused they’ll be on making changes.  And they’re right – to a point.

Tracking distance walked, run, or cycled does help you know how far you’ve moved your body.  Knowing that your heart rate goes up a lot when you walk up stairs quickly makes you realize how going up the steps affects you.  It might also be useful to have a gadget tell you when you had a deep sleep and when you tossed and turned a lot.

One of the great things having the technology does for the user is to give them measurements they can pay attention to while they work to improve.  Do they do go further distances every day?  How is their heart rate?  How did they sleep?

But the technology doesn’t tell them how to improve, it just tells them what happened.  To figure out what to do to improve on any particular metric they have to do two things:  examine the data closely, and talk with someone who can help them decide what to do to improve.

The same is true for leadership.  It is critically important to get good measurements you can track over time to see improvements.  This is true both for leaders acting as individuals wanting to learn and develop, and for those acting as leaders of the organization. Many leaders use evaluations, 360s, performance reviews, and employee engagement surveys to get data they can use.  But, like wearable tech, these only provide numbers.  In some cases they can show a deficit in a particular area (like the heart rate is too high when walking slowly), but they can’t tell you what to do about it.  Going further distances might help . . . but it might not. You need people to help figure out what to do with the information.

This is why seeking advice and feedback from others is so critical – whether for personal health or leadership health.  Others can help you think through the meaning of the data you have and help you decide where you want to focus your efforts to improve.  Coaches are especially good at helping you look at the numbers and put together an action plan to make the improvements you’re looking for.  They have such a breadth of knowledge and understanding that they can suggest forms of exercise you might not have thought of – forms that may end up being more effective for getting you closer to the goal you’re looking for.

I pair technology with expertise because I want to find the most effective way to get from where I am to where I want to be, and I know I’ll get there faster if I can rely on someone to help me find the most efficient way to do it.  What about you?

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