Friday, August 21, 2009

Opening Your (Johari) Window

Back in the 1950s two fellows names Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham developed a tool to help people better understands their interpersonal relationships and communications. Over the past 50 or 60 years this tool, known as the Johari Window (that’s a combination of Joe and Harry), has been used countless times to help individuals and groups learn more about themselves, and their managers, subordinates, and leaders.

The concept of the Johari Window is relatively simple. Consider the fact that there are things about yourself that you know, and very likely things about yourself that you don’t know. Also, it is fairly obvious that there are things about you that others know, and there are things about you that others don’t know.

This simple premise forms the basis of a very interesting conversation about who you are, your blind spots, what you are willing to share with others, and the great unknown.

If you read the earlier blog post on Trust, you might remember that part of what makes a leader trustworthy, and therefore successful, is communications – letting people know what you are thinking, and what drives you. And, as this communications is going on, you are exposing things about yourself to others. You are enlarging the part of the Johari Window called the Arena – the part that both you and others know about you.

The larger the Arena (this area of shared knowledge) the better your understanding of how others see you, and the better others understand the characteristics that make you who you are. Because you are open, your coworkers do not need to interpret or insert meaning. They can understand your words and actions for what they are. This openness contributes to a more trusting relationship.

Do not confuse openness with agreement. People will still disagree on policies, direction, and goals. But, by removing the need to insert meaning, or imply motives, the debate can focus on the topic of the work. I do not have to agree with someone to trust them; but, I do need to understand them, and have an understanding of what drives them.

The Johari Window below shows what happens as self disclosure and communications begin to expand the Arena. Your Blind Spot shrinks, you are seen as more genuine (the Fa├žade shrinks), and there are fewer questions about your motives and how you will react to your team (the Unknown shrinks).

If you are interested in doing an online exercise using the Johari Window there is one at this URL - Instructions are found on the web site.

If you are interested in doing the exercise in person, talk to that coach I suggested you get in the Trust blog entry, or contact me and maybe I can give you a referral. My contact information is on the right side of the blog page.