Auto-analytics -an easy way for entrepreneurial leaders to build their self-awareness

Jim Wilson, one of the co-authors of The New Entrepreneurial Leader, has an exciting article in the September 2012 edition of Harvard Business Review titled “You, By the Numbers.”  Wilson introduces the topic of auto-analytics –a voluntary process of collecting data about oneself in order to improve.  I advocate that all aspiring entrepreneurial leaders, and educators of entrepreneurial leaders, read the article.    Besides the fact that Wilson is a talented writer who always provides his reader with engaging insights, auto-analytics has an obvious connection to helping entrepreneurial leaders develop their self-awareness.  However, as Wilson points out data tracking alone is not useful to developing self-awareness if “observation doesn’t progress to analysis and intervention.”  This statement highlights an important point about self-awareness more generally.

With entrepreneurial leadership, we talk extensively about the need for a leader to take the time to reflect on who they are.  At Babson, we have been revising our curriculum to provide more opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurial leaders to better understand who they are in terms of their skills, style, values, identity, and emotional intelligence.  However, self-awareness, as Wilson points out, doesn’t just end with understanding who you are.  Self-awareness starts with understanding and continues with using that understanding to alter, change, and supplement “who I am.”  Self-awareness based action might involve changes in your behavior, changes in who you work with to better balance your strengths and weaknesses, changes in your view of how identity intersects with your context, or changes in your work flow.  Just as we expect entrepreneurial leaders to integrate analysis with action as they pursue new opportunities, we expect entrepreneurial leaders to do the same when they approach their own self-awareness.

This summer, I took auto-analytics to heart and spent a month (while my 3 children were at overnight camp) documenting my energy flow and engagement in my workday.  I came to some important conclusions about the ebbs and flow of my productivity, the time I needed to for writing and conceptualizing, and how the interaction between meetings and thinking time affected my day.  This fall, as chaos returned to Babson I have made significant changes in my day including how I use email, how I use writing time, when I am willing to schedule personal and professional meetings, and when I work-out.  Two weeks in, I am still feeling levels of engagement and focus that I haven’t felt for a long time.

As you hone your entrepreneurial leadership or look for innovative ways to teach aspiring entrepreneurial leaders self-awareness, I encourage you to consider engaging auto-analytics.   Wilson identifies a number of applications that can be used to better understand your physical, thinking and emotional self.  You might also turn to the work by Gretchen Spreitzer, University of Michigan, who has developed and taught an “energy audit” that provides a less technical approach for analyzing energy flow and its impact on productivity, happiness, and engagement.  Whether you use your smartphone or your pen and paper, taking stock of who you are is the first step towards entrepreneurial leadership but taking action based on who you are is what will make you an entrepreneurial leader.