How To Use Johari Window To Build Self-Awareness
Updated: Feb 21
"There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self."
Benjamin Franklin, 1750
Johari Window is one of my favourite models to help leaders build self-awareness.
This guide explores:
What is the Johari Window Model?
The Johari Window improves self-awareness and mutual understanding between individuals within a group. It is particularly helpful for leaders who want to understand how people perceive them.
It was devised by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955 while researching group dynamics at the University of California Los Angeles. The model was first published in the Proceedings of the Western Training Laboratory in Group Development by UCLA Extension Office in 1955, and was later expanded by Joseph Luft. The model name is derived from combining the two names Joseph and Harry.
Why use the Johari Window Model?
The effectiveness of your leadership will be limited by your Self-Awareness. Improving self-awareness will help you listen, be more present and be better in tune with the person or group you are leading.
This HBR Article explores what self-awareness is and how it can help you be a better leader.
In particular, the article defines two types, Internal and External Self-awareness:
The Johari Window model develops internal and external self-awareness. It helps you become aware of how others see you in contrast to how you see yourself.
A good outcome is a perfect alignment between how you see yourself and others see you. This happens when you are a very open leader who has worked with a stable group for some time.
A common outcome is a difference between how you see yourself and others see you. There are values important to you that others are unaware of. There are also values you demonstrate that other people see but you are not aware of.
The Johari window helps create this awareness of these contrast. With this knowledge, you can work to increase your open area. Where how you see yourself aligns with how others perceive you. This is done by discussing the results with the group and seeking greater understanding.
Becoming a Better Leader
Self-awareness is a core skill of coach-like leaders. In fact, great leaders are great coaches. The problem is that coaching is often misunderstood.
To help leaders understand coaching I created this eBook. A curated summary of the 12 best coaching books.
Helping you build better coaching skills and develop high performing teams.
How does the Johari Window Model work?
To gather perspectives you will use a list of Johari window adjectives. These are used to surface insights for discussion.
Select 5 adjectives that describe who you are.
Ask a diverse set of people to select 5 adjectives that describe who you are.
Categorise the results into the four Johari Window Quadrants.
Discuss the results with the group to elicit deeper insights.
Use this input to form an action plan on how to increase alignment.
This Miro Board is a great way to facilitate the Johari Window exercise.
What are the four quadrants of the Johari Window?
The Johari Window quadrants are as follows:
These are adjectives that both you and your team select. This is known as the open area. The ideal outcome is where this open area is large. This demonstrates your behaviours are in alignment with how you want to be perceived.
New teams naturally start with smaller open areas. Over time as you share knowledge, skills and experience the open area should grow.
The Johari Window is a great exercise to use with new teams. It helps build awareness of each other's values and strengths. It can be used as a baseline to see improvement in the teams understanding of each other.
To increase the open area start by sharing more about yourself. If there is a value in the hidden area spend time sharing that information with the team.
Remember the goal is to increase your open area.
These are adjectives not selected by you, but only by the team. These represent what others perceive but you do not.
The items in the blind spot offer a great opportunity to learn and increase your self-awareness.
It's important to approach these items with curiosity, not defensiveness. Ask questions to learn more about the perspectives. What behaviours have I adopted that led to your choice?
There are three typical scenarios that lead to the blindspot:
The relationship is new or shallow. The person doesn't know who you are. This is an opportunity to share more about yourself and learn how they have perceived you. The simple act of discussing your values can create better alignment.
Your desired identity does not align with your behaviour. People perceive you based upon behaviours. Ask for feedback on specific behaviours and actions you have taken to contribute to their feedback.
You have strengths others see but you are not aware of. A great opportunity to learn more about areas you can amplify and develop.
With all items in the blind spot use them as an opportunity to learn.
These are adjectives selected by you, but not by any of your peers.
It's common for the hidden area to be larger for new relationships. It can take time to reveal aspects of yourself to others.
It can be surprising to many when the hidden area is still large in a long term relationship. This helps to surface false assumptions and misunderstandings about a person. This can lead to a deeper conversation about how we see each other.
The ideal outcome is to move items from the hidden area into the open. You can do this by simply sharing more about these hidden traits with the group. You can also reflect on what behaviours you can adopt that better demonstrate your ideal traits.
The hidden area can reveal a deeper insight. How you see yourself is inconsistent with how you behave.
Feedback from others can often provide a striking contrast. For example, perhaps you believe you are trustworthy. If none of your peers selects this trait perhaps that's an indicator that your behaviours are not in alignment with trustworthiness.
You can dig deeper by asking more about what you can do to demonstrate this trait more.
Any adjectives not selected go into the Unknown. This could be because they simply do not apply or because the people selected have not seen these traits demonstrated.
Over time these adjectives might move especially as you engage with different people in the organisation.
Johari Window Examples
Here are three common outcomes from the Johari Window exercise:
People don't know who you really are
This happens when most of the adjectives you chose are in the hidden area.
I was once working with a leader who had chosen confident, fun, happy, kind and independent.
None of these adjectives was chosen by the team. This was despite the leader working with the team for several years.
Through further discussion, the leader arrived at a key realisation. Many of these traits were applied at home but hadn't been demonstrated in the workplace. The leader worked on identifying behaviours she could adopt at work that would demonstrate these traits. One example was schedule fun check-ins at the start of team meetings.
You don't know who you are
This happens when your blind spot and hidden areas are high.
Another leader I was working with had shy and quiet as chosen adjectives.
The team in contrast has all selected confident and able.
Through discussion, the leader realised that their imposter syndrome was causing internal self-doubt. In reality, the leader was demonstrating behaviours of confidence and ability. This helped to reaffirm these strengths and amplify them further.
Your behaviours don't match how you want to be perceived
This is another outcome when your blindspot is high.
It's common for leaders behaviours to be in contrast to their desired identity.
This was the case for one leader I worked with. They had chosen calm and organized as adjectives.
The team in contrast had chosen spontaneous and bold.
Through discussion, this was in response to how the leader was handling deadlines. In times of pressure, the team were observing the leader making bold decisions. This had led to frustration in the team and constantly changing priorities. The team would welcome a calm and organized response.
With this contrast, the leader shared with the team their hidden area. The leader worked with the team to help in times of pressure. This helped the leader demonstrate more calm and organized responses. This improved the outcomes for the team but also the satisfaction of the leader.
When we behave in alignment with our values we lead have greater work satisfaction.
Johari Window Template
To complete the Johari Window exercise you can use these templates.
A great way to facilitate the exercise is using Miro, a virtual whiteboard. This template contains the Johari window quadrants. It also has the Johari window adjectives.
Here is an example email you can share with colleagues to gather their adjectives.
I'm currently completing a program to develop better leadership skills. As part of this, I'm developing core coaching skills of active listening, asking coaching questions and self-awareness.
To help improve self-awareness I'm completing an exercise called Johari Window.
It helps increase my awareness of how others perceive me compared to how I perceive myself.
To help in this activity all I need you to do is pick 5 adjectives from the list below that you feel describe who I am:
Johari Window Adjectives List: