Johari Window and Leadership Development – 4 Ways to Increase Self Awareness

Every time I share the Johari Window with a group of leaders, I am amazed at the impact it has on their view of the conversations they have with their team.

Then I think of the group of 24 leaders that I took through a four-day leadership development program last summer; at the end, 13 of those leaders committed to focus on asking more powerful questions. I need to stop being surprised because the leaders I meet want to be people-centered leaders, they just don’t know how.

I believe most leaders want to be people-centered leaders, and when given the tools and some feedback (to indicate their effectiveness in doing it) they opt to become more effective listeners. The Johari Window is a great lens for leaders to think about their interactions and for people to see what their leaders are trying to accomplish. At the core of an honest conversation is clarity around both the actions we are taking and the intentions of those actions, which is fertile ground for feedback and developing our self-awareness and ability to lead.

Here are the 4 tips I have added to help leaders see the key activities that develop their self-awareness:

  1. Experience – The best way to learn about leadership and work on how you balance telling, asking, and listening is to do it. If you are intentional about it, you will learn a lot about yourself, and your team will help you get better.
  2. Personality Inventories – These provide a great lens into your BLIND SPOTS and help you formalize how you talk about your own strengths and weaknesses. I focus on transition points, so I use the Birkman Method assessment because of the language it presents around needs and stress behaviors. This provides great feedback for things the leader can share (revealing the HIDDEN) and things they did not see (BLIND SPOT).
  3. 360 Feedback – Sometimes this is just asking people some key questions routinely or finding an outside resource to do a survey of key people. The whole intent is to bring things into the open, by confirming something the leader already thought was in the OPEN area, or revealing a BLIND SPOT.
  4. Coaching – This is the most common way for executive leaders to create an individualized development plan and work on the personal change necessary to make it happen. Coaches provide perspective, access to additional resources/learning, and ask the questions that allow for self-reflection, personal growth, and focused action.

Here is a handout that includes 4 additional introspective tips for moving things into the OPEN area.

Use the Johari Window as a lens to help you ask more powerful questions of yourself and your team. That is what is at the core of people-centered leadership.

If you want a deeper dive, here are two short videos (video 1 / video 2) that introduce the topic and give you tangible advice on what you can do now to be a more people-centered leader.

Leadership and EGO: Words of Wisdom from Alan Mulally

Below is an excerpt from Eric Schurenberg’s column in the March 2015 edition of Inc. Magazine.  He is the editor.  I also think Inc. is the best source of leadership advice for entrepreneurial minded leaders.  Here is the full post.

. . . ideas alone don’t build companies.  Building takes leadership, and leadership takes continuous, counterintuitive, ego-minimizing work.  That was one lesson I took from a recent half-day meeting led by Alan Mulally, retired CEO of Ford and Boeing. . . . . “Keep reminding yourself,” he kept reminding the room, “it’s not about you.”  It’s about the plan.  The leader’s job is to ensure that the team has a compelling vision; to help everyone understand the strategy for realizing that vision; and to see that everyone is working together to implement the plan.  When teams truly need to mesh, it doesn’t matter whether you were once the world’s best coder or salesperson or idea man.  Your job is now facilitator.  Behavior matters. . . . what was allowed at Boeing and Ford: admitting problems and asking for help.  What was not: texting in meetings, finger-pointing, putdowns, or anything else that interfered with a sense of shared effort. “Working together works,” says Mulally.  “Smart people working together always works.”

In my second chapter of my book(People-Centered Performance) I talk about the OBN leader – the one who knows what they OUGHT to do, BUT they DON’T.  Mulally’s gives some practical advice for fighting the OBN trap.

Inviting the Voice of Ownership

I remember the conversation vividly.  His call came two weeks after my Situational Leadership class and his frustration was evident.

I am asking all the questions you gave us in the training, but they are not giving me any answers.   The How can I support you? question is just creating awkward silence, when I know they are buried and complaining.  I feel like that training was a waste of time.

That conversation was over a decade ago, and started me on a quest to better support leaders and those they lead in having more meaningful conversations.

So here is my response after years of working with other leaders and individuals in this space.

1.  Be patient – The lens of a leader is generally one where they see themselves as nice and approachable, so not answering questions confuses them.  Too often, people do not see them as approachable.  I can think back to an extremely approachable leader I was working with, and the feedback from her team was She is so busy, I hate to bother her with my problems.  Her approachability was impacted by people liking her too much and not wanting to bother her.

Her fault?  No.

Her problem?  Yes.

Creating the space and continuing to share WHY you believe this time is important is the step to focus on.

2.  Look for opportunities to DO support – Talking about support is one thing, but people need proof.  Your best people will only need a little proof.  Your lowest performers will need a lot of proof.  Focus your time and energy on your best people, and continue to provide evidence of your commitment and INVITE your other team members to join the performance conversation.

Notice I did not say try to convince them of your commitment.  People have to make their own choices, and you need to focus on what you control which is your actions and keeping what you are thinking in the OPEN part of the Johari Window.  (see my video to hear about the JoHari Window)

3.  Be patient, and celebrate your successes.

Summer can be a good time to re-start relationships because people are relaxed and have lots of things to talk about.  Use this time to build relationships and invite people into more meaningful conversations about their future and the future of your business.

Just don’t get bogged down by the people that do not want to go there.

If you are interested – here is a presentation I created to support individuals in managing their own career and performance.  A full whitepaper is available on request – just ask.

People Habits before People Skills – Johari Window

I remember the moment I became passionate about one-on-ones.  I was in day 2 supporting a nationally known author/consultant in the area of conflict management/robust conversations.  Our challenge:  We were 16 months into a curriculum rollout/organizational change and the success was present, but only in pockets.  As we went from group to group getting feedback on successes and failures, a question came to my mind, so I asked it.  “Bill, in your assumptions of organizations and relationships between leaders and their teams, do you assume that leaders are meeting one-on-one with their teams regularly?”   His answer “Yes.”  It hit me, we can equip leaders all day long to have these wonderful fierce, crucial, or honest conversations, and yet if they are not creating controlled space that is safe and focused (like a one-on-one conversation) it will be difficult to practice and change habits.  More importantly Failure rate > Success rate – and failure in the area of building relationships (ie. leadership) is expensive at many levels.

That is also the time I realized I would start a crusade around habits that mean the most to people (ie. engagement!) and that busy leaders, if they are willing to practice them will get the biggest ROT (return on time).

Here are some videos I have put together for leaders to think differently about this time using the Johari Window as a lens for not only how they listen, but how they create safety for their people by sharing first.

Leadership and the Johari Window – Part 1

Leadership and the Johari Window – Part 2

 What is to come?  A script for how this could be a 15 minute time of learning in one of your team meetings and a key note/workshop around one on ones where this could be used.  Subscribe to my trU Tips and you will get the templates.

I believe our learning model for most organizations has changed, instead of going off to class, practicing, and then coming back to receive practice/support to help us get better – we now are in positions where we have to learn as we do and it is important in that model to get support and feedback real-time.  Since 99.9% of companies have <500 people, this model works great as long as leaders are present on a somewhat routine basis and the time is productive for both leader and individual.

My goal is to equip leaders and key supporters (HR leaders) to help their people create the habits that feed a frenzy of honest conversations, that lead to thoughtful actions, and result in trUPerformance.