The Johari Window in Practice: From Blind Spots to Openness

Creating a Johari window for yourself can help you enhance leadership skills, emotional intelligence, and overall effectiveness at work.

By Max Freedman  •   January 26, 2024  •   6 min read

Technically, a great manager or leader bosses people around, but that’s a pretty narrow view of what it means to take charge. A great leader is also emotionally intelligent—in particular, you need self-awareness to lead effectively. Creating a Johari window for yourself, in collaboration with your team members, can show you how self-aware you are and identify professional development areas. Here, we outline the benefits of the Johari window, how to use it, and how it improves your communication and productivity.

What is a Johari window? 

The Johari window is a visual that assesses your behavior, habits, and attitude. You and your fellow team members will describe yourself using adjectives that go into one of your Johari window’s four quadrants. 

There are approximately 55 adjectives that you’re encouraged to use when creating a Johari window, but you can use your own adjective sets instead. The more of these adjectives you add to a quadrant, the larger that quadrant becomes in comparison to the others.

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What are the benefits of the Johari window?

Creating a Johari window for yourself can help you:

Increase your self-awareness

Your Johari window compares how you see yourself to how others see you. It’s like a self-evaluation performance review combined with your team’s most honest feedback, and that’s why it’s so strongly associated with building self-awareness. You’ll see the gap in your self-perception and how you actually come off, giving you ideas on what to change and what to keep doing. 

Improve interpersonal relationships

Your Johari window will show your strengths and weaknesses, and that’s great for strengthening your workplace relationships. When everyone knows who you truly are and how you communicate, great relationships are all but bound to happen.

Foster personal and professional growth

Think about it: How do you feel when you find out people see you a certain way that you don’t want to be perceived? Chances are you feel bad and want to make a change. That’s the very foundation of personal growth, and it starts with your Johari window. 

As for professional growth, your Johari window can reveal surprising leadership traits that others say you have—or that only you think you have. That makes your Johari window a solid springboard for professional development.

How does the Johari window benefit productivity and communication? 

The top left area of the Johari window is where you’ll find the skills and traits you and everyone else agree you have. Your goal should be to move the descriptions in all the other quadrants into this area. The more descriptions you get into this quadrant, the more your team understands you, leading to effective workplace communication. That’s true whether you’re looking to improve communication in remote work or among your in-person team members.

Additionally, the more descriptors you move to that precious top-left corner, the more you and everyone around you get on the same page. When that happens, you’re all bound to work better together, maximizing your performance and productivity.

The four quadrants of the Johari window 

The Johari window model includes an open area (top left), blind area (top right), hidden area (bottom left), and unknown area (bottom right). Here’s what to know about each of these quadrants.

Quadrant 1: Open area

Your “open” descriptors are the ones both you and others know about yourself. For example, your open area might show “accepting,” “knowledgeable,” “caring,” and “dependable.” If so, everyone’s in agreement that these words describe you. A greater number of words in this area than others reflects that you and your team members trust each other and work well together.

Quadrant 2: Blind area

Your “blind” descriptors are ones that other people point out but that you likely didn’t notice before. For example, maybe you aren’t yet confident that others should trust you when, in fact, they already do. In that case, “trustworthy” might wind up in your blind area. 

The fewer blind descriptors in your Johari window, the more aware you are of how you affect others. A smaller blind area also means that your team members aren’t keeping very much from you. Suffice it to say that the less packed your blind area, the better.

Quadrant 3: Hidden area

In your hidden area, you’ll find things you know about yourself that others don’t yet know about you. For example, if you’re sentimental but you keep your emotions to yourself at work, “sentimental” might wind up in your hidden area. To remedy this, try sharing more of your feelings with your team. After all, when you hold back thoughts or information and your team members find out later, they could start losing trust in you.

Quadrant 4: Unknown area

Any adjectives that neither you nor your fellow team members choose go into the unknown quadrant. These adjectives may or may not provide jumping-off points for improving your self-awareness—it’s up to you. For example, as a non-leadership team member, you might not need to be powerful, so this trait being unknown is fine. If you’re a leader, though, and “powerful” is an unknown for you, that might be worth trying to change.

How does the Johari window model work? 

Ready to start building out your Johari window? It’s easy—here’s how to do it.

1Choose five adjectives that best describe yourself

Look at the standard Johari adjectives list (or the list you’ve created for yourself). Which five adjectives on it do you think describe you best? There’s no need to rush into your answer—take some time to really think about this. Once you’ve decided on your adjectives, create a set of meeting notes and put your descriptors there.

2Ask team members for five adjectives that best describe you

Find some team members to take the same step you just took. Encourage them not to rush either—you might want to set a formal deadline that’s neither immediate nor far away. Once everyone has decided on the words, send them your meeting notes with your adjectives and have them add theirs. Sending the meeting notes after everyone has come up with their adjectives means they won’t see your words and be swayed toward choosing certain descriptors.

3Put your results into the proper areas

Any words that come up on both your list and any other team members’ lists—or even just one team member’s list—go into your open area. You might want to highlight the adjectives that others used the most frequently. 

After that, look for adjectives that others have added but that you haven’t. These go in your blind area. The reverse—adjectives you added but that others didn’t—go in your hidden quadrant. Add any Johari words that weren’t used to the unknown section.

4Meet with your team and make an action plan

You’ve added your Johari adjectives to meeting notes because, once your grid is complete, you’ll meet with everyone about it. During your conversation, you’ll ask why your team members see you in certain ways and not in others. You’ll also ask what you can do to improve on any problem areas. Once you turn these suggested improvements into meeting action items, you’re well on your way to expanding your open area and shrinking your other quadrants.

With Fellow, you can keep an accurate record of these discussions with AI meeting transcription and AI meeting summaries, and revisit them if you ever need a reminder on next steps.

Through the window with Fellow 

Your Johari meeting may work best as a team meeting, or you might prefer one-on-one meetings to get more individualized tips from your team members. If you choose the latter, use Fellow’s one-on-one feedback meeting template or one-on-one reflection template for the best results. This way, you give yourself a solid structure for achieving your goals. Fellow’s feedback feature also empowers your team to regularly give and get real-time feedback. With Fellow, you’ll jump through the Johari window in no time!

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