Johari’s Window; stepping into the unknown

As we continue to deliver team events in our now ‘not so new’ digital world, we’ve been astounded and impressed by the levels of HOT (honesty, openness, trust) being shared within groups. Even those teams who would have previously described themselves as close and familiar are discovering, and more importantly appreciating, some of the nuanced innerworkings of their own and their colleagues’ emotions.

This has drawn our attention back to an old favourite – Johari’s Window. Even the way we’re now seeing each other in boxes on screen reminds us of it!

Johari’s Window is a model designed to help improve and develop levels of self-awareness;

  • Known;  what we know about ourselves and what’s known by others
  • Blind;  what other’s see but we are unaware of
  • Hidden;  what we know about ourselves but choose not to disclose to others
  • Unknown;  what is both unknown to us and others

Put simply the name of the game is to increase the ‘known’ or ‘open’ area as much as possible by; asking for feedback from others to help shrink the ‘blind’ quadrant, sharing more of what’s in our ‘hidden’ area and seeking out new opportunities to test the ‘unknown’. And we can almost guarantee that whatever your personal Johari Window looked liked before COVID, it’s almost certainly changed as a result of it.

A new view

Following months of uncertainty combined with remote working it’s not surprising to hear from teams (and we include our own circle at Maier here too) that emotions are running much closer to the surface than usual, made all the more raw due to depleted energy levels. In working with a senior leadership team this week, everyone acknowledged having to consciously and carefully manage and monitor how they were feeling. New ways of regaining perspective have had to be found in this insular world – we’re no longer able to walk away from the desk and find a friendly face further along the corridor to off-load our frustrations with. And the dangers of overthinking, replaying and reinforcing the negatives are all too real when working in isolation. How easy it then becomes to upgrade the ‘hidden’ and downgrade the ‘open’ areas. The good news is that our facilitated sessions are giving teams the opportunity to share, listen, confide and empathise – helping them to rebalance and create a much more useful and healthier version of their ‘window’ as a result.

Unchartered territory

With none of us having had to deal with anything like this before, COVID has inadvertently given us a chance to open up two of the more challenging quadrants of the window; ‘hidden’ and ‘unknown’.

In terms of the ‘hidden’ there are a myriad of reasons why we might choose not to share what’s in here – some of those reasons being perfectly valid. But some of what might be ‘hidden’ could be vulnerabilities we don’t want to share or talents we’ve been overly modest about. The COVID crisis has handed us a pass on both counts. Teams have told us about the importance of playing to strengths in those early weeks and where individuals have unexpectedly stepped up and delivered brilliant results. And the sharing of vulnerabilities has been both cathartic for those brave enough to shine a light on them and reassuring for those around them. Knowing that others have felt shaky at times, that they too wrestle with the irrational and unpredictable ups and downs of daily life as we now know it – all helps in bringing us closer together and building a ‘new type of trust’ as one delegate put it.

As for the ‘unknown’, well COVID has tested us in ways we’ve never been tested before. Almost everyone we’ve spoken to and worked with have tapped into levels of resilience they didn’t know they had and some of what was previously ‘unknown’ has now been exposed. You may have realised a new skill or aptitude or you may have uncovered an unknown fear – either way the challenge now is deciding which of the Johari boxes it should sit in going forward.