A simple awareness building tool for working relationships

We all have blind spots and masks we wear. Awareness and choice around both dramatically impacts the quality and resonance of our relationships, including how we lead.

A Johari window is a simple awareness building tool for doing this exactly, organizing traits/habits (and/or whatever it is about you that you want to assess) into 4 main areas:

Open book — Known to you, known to others

Hidden self — Known to you, not known to others

Blind spot — Not known to you, known to others

Unknown — Not known to you, not known to others

This neat little diagram can lead to big insights on gaps between your intentions and impact.

To fill it out, request feedback from key collaborators — teammates, managers, friends, etc. You can ask for feedback on specific behaviors or qualities or open feedback on your performance in a particular role, while also reflecting on how you see yourself. If you want ideas or apples to apples comparisons you can use a common word bank for all raters (e.g. team values or leadership competencies from a resource like KornFerry’s Leadership Architect).

By comparing your own perceptions with others’, you’ll get a better sense of how you’re showing up and what’s hidden. I love the Johari window because it is an easy way to calibrate your “reality” with that of others.

A few things to keep in mind for any feedback: People see through their own lenses and sometimes those lenses are so skewed or cloudy that their feedback could be totally off (as could your interpretation or reaction to the feedback, by the way). Power dynamics, objective and subjective, and social niceties will also be at play.

For these reasons, creating psychological safety for raters is key: For example by reassuring your interest and openness to the process, ensuring there will be no negative consequences particularly if direct reports are involved, and explaining the value of candid information (for your learning and growth, a strong-to-stronger team etc).

Here’s what you can do with information in each of the quadrants along with some examples:

Open book — Known to you, known to others >> Dial up or down with group support, depending on desirability

Examples: Values and commitments in leading team, KPIs

Hidden self — Known to you, not known to others >> Express if desired or if the impact will be positive, or continue to manage

Examples: Hesitation to ask for help or delegate for fear of overloading team

Blind spot — Not known to you, known to others >> Dial up or down with group support, depending on desirability (most likely after some reflection and awareness building so you can spot or predict when it shows up)

Examples: Pacesetting, results-oriented leadership is experienced as out of touch, stressful or demotivating

Unknown — Not known to you, not known to others >> Devote resources to exploring or developing these if desirable

Examples: Strategic mindset in “doers,” operational leaders or middle management

3 suggestions for application:

  1. Remember this is about impact versus acting — you need to be bought in for changes to stick.
  2. Play to your strengths, exercising awareness and management of weaknesses. Progress versus perfection.
  3. Focus your developmental efforts on what you most want to change versus trying to excel across the board. At minimum, sequence it so the most important changes are practiced and prioritized first.

Rising to your highest and best never occurs in isolation. Leveraging the input of key collaborators with a Johari window is an easy and effective way to tap into strengths and expand your range.

Want more work tips and inspiration? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter at caseyonder.com.

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