Following on from last month’s discussion on ‘EQ in the workplace’, there are many tools which can help us understand and develop our Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

The first aspect of Daniel Goleman’s theory of EQ relates to self-awareness. One of the best tools to develop our strengths in this area is the Johari Window; in short, it’s a framework help you understand how you see yourself and how others see you. Whilst this is valuable in everyday life, there’s an even more compelling case for it in the workplace. If colleagues have a greater understanding of themselves and each other, they are in a stronger position to realise their full potential.

We can all use the Johari Window to improve self-awareness and build our skills in communication, interpersonal relationships, group dynamics, team development and inter-group relationships. Taking this a step further, a good manager will get to know all four sectors of each employee’s character, in order to bring out the best in them and create better understanding within the team or companyLet’s illustrate the four window panes one by one with hypothetical examples:

Let’s illustrate the sectors one by one with hypothetical examples:

  • The Open Area – aspects known by self and known to others.

In other words, a person’s strengths and weaknesses are clear to all. Let’s take the example of Joe, who is really good at delivering sales pitches; he knows it and so do his colleagues, so he is often put forward as the ‘frontman’ and successfully carries out that function for the organisation. This is an ideal situation because Joe knows his own strengths, his colleagues also recognise them and the company makes the most of his value to the team.

  • The Blind Spot – aspects unknown by self but known by others.

When we fall into this category, we could be behaving in a way which may be sub-conscious for us, but will be perfectly obvious to our colleagues. Let’s take Joe again: although he is known to be very good at delivering sales pitches, maybe he goes about gathering information in a less than ideal way. His emails are abrupt, he gets frustrated with colleagues who don’t respond immediately and he seldom takes the time to say ‘thank you’. Whilst Joe may think this is just his modus operandi and it is why he’s so efficient, his colleagues may perceive his behaviour to be, at best, unnecessarily aggressive or, at worst, simply rude. Blind Spots like this can fairly easily be overcome by my old friend, Feedback. Joe’s manager and colleagues owe it to themselves, as well as to Joe, to find a way to address the behaviours which are having a negative impact. Then, Joe can decide whether to work on changing his behaviour and, in time, shift into the Open Area.

  • The Hidden Area – aspects known by self but unknown by others.

In this area, an individual is handling something which is not apparent to those around them, which can lead to missed opportunities or misunderstandings. Maybe Joe is fluent in French but, because no-one knows, they don’t think of asking him to help when they win a new client, who happens to be French. There’s a missed opportunity to deliver a great customer experience. Or maybe Joe is facing a particularly tough time at home but chooses not to say anything to his colleagues – they simply perceive that Joe is being even more abrupt, frustrated and sometimes angry, which leads to strained communications. In this situation, there is a missed opportunity to show compassion or offer support. By finding a way of breaking down the communication barriers, Joe will be able to move from the Hidden Area back to the Open Area, in a more positive and supportive environment.

  • The Unknown Area – aspects unknown by self and unknown to others.

This generally applies to younger, less experienced colleagues who are only just discovering their own strengths and weaknesses, let alone revealing them to others in the workplace. Perhaps, when Joe was a junior member of the team; he did what was asked of him with enthusiasm and enjoyment but he didn’t put himself forward for sales pitches because he felt somewhat intimidated by his senior colleagues. What they didn’t know, and he never dared to mention, was that he excelled at public speaking at school. He could have become a valued member of the pitching team sooner; the company missed an opportunity to use his talents to the full. With coaching, mentoring and peer reviews, Joe’s potential would soon have been spotted and nurtured, shifting him into the Open Area.

All in all, the more time we and our colleagues can spend in the Open Area of the Johari Window, the better.

So, how do we get there? Although we generally practise improving our IQ in a structured way, learning a little more each day, EQ is often overlooked. Self-awareness is the first area to master. A good way of factoring in EQ development mechanisms is to introduce a monthly, quarterly or at least annual ‘Johari Window health check’ between colleagues (or between managers and employees). As time goes by, each individual should see fewer Blind, Hidden and Unknown traits and more aspects fitting into the Open Area.

Happy window-gazing!

The Johari Window is one of the tools I will be using in the training workshops I am helping to design and run during 2020 for Lukas Neckermann’s client, a global automotive supplier.