The Johari Window

A powerful tool for self-discovery.

Cleaning these windows is valuable; no chemicals required.

What do your window panes look like?  I see mine and they’re kind of cringe worthy.  Remnants of winter still clinging….waiting for change, longing to be opened and let the fresh spring air inside.

So rather than looking at my lame windows, lets look inside ourselves instead.

Are you familiar with the Johari Window?  This concept was developed in 1955 by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham (thus the super cool combo name).  At the core, this tool is about self discovery.  This is about your authentic self, and also others’ perceptions of you.

There are 4 panes in this window, each representing a component of you.

One dimension is the audience–you versus others.  The other dimension is the level of awareness, we’re either aware or unaware.

Put these two dimensions together and we have:

  1. The Arena (open self)
  2. The Façade (hidden self)
  3. The Blindspot
  4. The Unknown

The Arena, or open self is the knowledge you have of your skills, abilities and feelings that others are also aware of.  For example, I may be incredibly gifted at strategic thinking, and others know this about me—they would also identify strategic thinking as a strength.

The Facade, or hidden self, are things that we know about ourselves, and we don’t share them.  Either because we prefer them to be private, or we might feel vulnerable sharing them.  For example, I might not want to tell my boss that I’m having challenges with a peer, because I fear they might think badly of me, I may lose credibility.  So, I keep this tidbit safe within me.

I see this as a larger theme in coaching a lot, with imposter syndrome.  This is a belief that I really don’t know what I’m doing, I must be succeeding by luck or circumstances, despite the fact that I am outwardly successful in my job.

The Blindspot is of course things that others know about us, but we are unaware (like when my team used to call me “the hammer” –early in my career; this was not a term of affection, fyi).  Blindspots are there for all of us.  Some of us are willing to open that window pane right up-soliciting feedback from others.  Leadership 360’s are designed with this purpose in mind, to capture a more comprehensive view of our leadership strengths and developmental areas.

And then there is the Unknown window.  This is the pane that holds all the skills and talents that we’ve yet to discover–they are waiting patiently for the opportunity to emerge.  For example, you may take on a new role in a new division of the company, or an overseas assignment, or even as a first time manager.  In each of these situations, we don’t really know how we’ll perform.  Nor do others.  Because we haven’t examined this part of ourselves yet, it remains out of view.

What I love about the Johari window, is it can be used for growth and self-reflection or in a team.

Here are some thoughts to consider around each element of the Johari Window:

  1. The Arena: Your goal should be to have this be the largest pane—the one in which you are authentically and transparently leading others.  I see this as authenticity.  We know our talents, we use them.  Others know them and seek them out.  I feel like we create our unique brand in this area of the window.
  2. The Façade: This is an interesting area.  Consider what you may be hiding from others and why.  Are you withholding information out of fear?  Lack of confidence?  Or not wanting to be vulnerable with others?  I think this is worth examination and a conscious decision.  There is a lot of value in self-disclosure, being transparent and trusting with others.  Make a decision on purpose with this area of the window.
  3. The Blindspot: I think there’s a difference between great and exceptional leaders, and one of the key differentiators I see is the growth mindset.  This quest for continuous learning, for increasing self-awareness and being able to not only withstand the discomfort of feedback, to seek it out is a huge asset.  It means continuous improvement.  It means potentially having a bigger impact on the world and on people because we’re not afraid to look at ourselves honestly.  Show me a leader who doesn’t think they have blind spots and trust me, we’ll find one.
  4. The Hidden self: This pane is about challenging ourselves to grow in new ways.  To push ourselves to discover new talents and abilities.  Without risk and deliberate effort, how else will we continue to expand our capabilities and capacity, to truly evolve into the best version of ourselves?  This is a fascinating pane to consider.  It begs the question, what is your next challenge, what situation will give you an opportunity to learn more about who you are, and what you are capable of?

Use this tool for your own development or with your team.  It’s a relatively easy to understand framework for growth and transparency.  What do your windowpanes look like?  It’s spring and time to open them up and let the fresh air in.

Download the Johari Window.