Working in an IAG environment can be challenging from the perspective of working with the client, but also in terms of working efficiently with colleagues. The team in which you work within is really the foundation for the whole role – if the team is not cooperative or understanding of each other then it is likely that this disjointedness will filter through to the main subject of the work. This is the same with most working roles, and so it is important that teams focus on the group dynamic to improve their working environment.
The Johari Window model was developed in 1955 by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, and is used frequently by professionals to help understand both themselves and their colleagues. In particular, it helps the user to develop self-awareness, strengthen interpersonal relationships, and improve communications between the team. It is also effective as aiding personal development. Rather than focus on perhaps the more common skills, the model places emphasis on soft skills such as empathy, behaviour, and cooperation.
Image sourced from Too Many Balloons
As seen above, the Johari Window has four sections within it, which are utilised from left to right. The first section on the top-left is called the ‘open/free area’. This is the area where knowledge about yourself that you are willing to share goes. It should be both known by yourself and known by others. For example, it could be that you are a motivated person, as this may be something that your team have identified about yourself that you already know.
The next section is known as the ‘blind area’. This is information that others know about you which you don’t know yourself. For example, your team members may well have noticed that you work very well under pressure – even if you do not feel so yourself. To transfer information from here over to the ‘open/free area’ you can ask for feedback from colleagues on how you work and appear to others.
The third section is the ‘hidden area’ – this is the opposite of the ‘blind area’, in that it contains information about yourself that you are not willing to share. This could be personal information, or perhaps things that you struggle with that you don’t wish other people to know, such as social anxiety, or finding it hard to deal with criticism. This area can be reduced by opening up to people about yourself and allowing people to gain access to this information (of course time can be a big requirement of this, which is why efficient teamwork rarely happens overnight).
The last section is called the ‘unknown area’ and includes shared discovery, as information that goes here is unknown to both yourself and your colleagues. Perhaps you are a skilled salesperson, but you’ve never been in a situation where you’ve needed to use this skill, and so your colleagues haven’t witnessed it either. It could also be something such as an unknown illness or a subconscious feeling that hasn’t emerged yet. Self-discovery can help to reduce this area, as can observation from your colleagues, and so it is important to stretch yourself within your professional role to help learn more about yourself, which you can then allow your colleagues to observe.
A good way to implement the Johari Window model is to look at it as a group. First, take some time to reflect on yourself – your strengths, weaknesses, personality traits, and so on – and then think about which of these you want to share with the rest of your team. You may find it interesting to find out how many of these have already been identified by others.
Also have a think about the other members of your team – what feedback could you provide to them about themselves? What do you really like about them, and what do you feel you need to understand better?
The model can be really good for gaining a better understanding of each member of your team, and hopefully will lead to a stronger, more close-knit team environment in which you all work efficiently together. However, there are a couple of drawbacks you should take into consideration before diving straight in.
- Be careful what information you communicate to your team members. Know the phrase “If there’s nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? This can ring true here – some information might be better just left unsaid, or could risk friction between colleagues.
- Remember that once the information is out there, it could potentially be passed on or used negatively. Make sure you only share what you are comfortable sharing, and make sure others do the same.
- Feedback differs within cultures. Some cultures and religions may not accept feedback in the way that you might, and so always make sure to check this with colleagues before trying the model out.
Despite these drawbacks, when used properly the Johari Window model can really aid team growth and development, whilst also helping you to learn something about yourself. And, the more you know about yourself and others, the more you will be able to help your clients.