In a recent blog post, I highlighted three key components of effective interpersonal skills (communication, critical thinking and confidence). Although all of these skills are important, self-awareness is arguably the glue that binds interpersonal skills together, and is the bedrock of effective leadership. For leaders who are lacking in self-awareness, the good news is that it can be developed.
A simple tool that can be used to enhance self-awareness is “The Johari Window.” This model is beneficial for helping individuals improve how they are perceived and understood by others. It is also useful in guiding the exploration of one’s blind spots. The word “Johari” was derived from the names of its creators, American psychologists, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham. The model offers two key takeaways. The first takeaway is that individuals who are open to disclosing information about themselves builds trust with others and enhance interpersonal relationships. The second takeaway involves learning more about oneself through feedback from others. Individuals who discover more about themselves reduce their blind spots and increase self-awareness.
The Johari Window model is presented as a window with four panes or quadrants: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Johari_window.png. Let’s take a closer look at each quadrant.
The first window pane is called the Open Area or Arena. It represents the behaviors that are demonstrated by the individual that are known to the individual and known by others. This area may include information about the individual’s knowledge, behavior, skills, attitudes, and emotions.
Example. A person knows she has very good organizational skills and others frequently seek her advice on ways in which they could be better organized.
This window pane is known as the Blind Area or Blind Spot. It provides insights into behaviors displayed by the person that are unknown to the person but known to others. This blind spot represents the greatest opportunity to increase self-awareness through feedback from others. However, it’s important for this feedback to be constructive so that everyone stays on to path to trust building—negativity could derail that process.
Example. A team member may not be aware that he tends to not listen to others, while insisting that his ideas be heard. Another team member makes him aware of this blind spot and suggests that it would be more helpful to the team for all ideas to be heard.
This window pane is known as the Hidden Area or Facade. It reveals things that an individual knows about himself or herself that others don’t know. This façade often shields information about individuals that they are reluctant to disclose, such as fears, secrets, past experiences.
Example. A leader is asked to present a proposal to the executive team for a major project. This leader is not comfortable speaking to a group of senior leaders, even though she seems to be very outgoing.
This window pane is referred to as the Unknown Area or Unknown Self. It consists of knowledge, skills and behaviors that are unexplored and hence, unknown to the individual, and are unknown to others. These unknowns can range from hidden skills, to the inability to relate to others, to a psychological imbalance. Individuals can reduce their unknown area through self-discovery and shared discovery opportunities with others.
Example. An individual who usually works in the background is asked to lead the implementation of a major project. As he works on the project, he discovers that he enjoys it and that leading the project is not a difficult task for him.
The goals of the Johari Window model are twofold:
- increase the size of the Open Area without disclosing too much personal information about yourself, and
- decrease the size of the Hidden and Unknown areas.
Using the model in this way is a great start to enhancing self-awareness, relationship management, and other components of interpersonal skills like self-confidence and collaboration.