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The Johari Window model: with personal examples and exercises

The Johari Window is one of those models that many people are aware of, but few people use. Which is unfortunate, because it’s a simple and powerful model for guiding self-development.

In this article I’ll share everything you need to get started. I’ll explain the Johari Window, share some personal examples, and provide simple exercises for you to make the most of the model.

Whether you’re working on your own development, supporting a team, or coaching 1:1, the Johari Window model is a useful foundation for productive development planning.

The Johari Window explained

The Johari Window (or the Jo Harry Window) was developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham. As you may have just realized, the name of the model is derived from a combination of their first names!

The model recognizes some essential truths.

For example, there are parts of ourselves that we keep hidden from others. This may be our deepest desires, or just hidden foibles, or just ‘stuff’ that we haven’t yet found the opportunity to share.

There are also parts of ourselves that others can see, but which we can’t see for ourselves. This can be a simple behavior such as interrupting when other people are speaking. It’s so automatic that we don’t notice it ourselves, but it’s very visible to other people. Or it could be something more profound, and can be a positive(!), such as our ability to be calm in a crisis.

And then there is our potential, unknow to both ourselves and others because that potential hasn’t yet been unleashed. Our life experiences haven’t yet revealed our ability.

The model takes all that theory, and packages it into a neat 4-box matrix that looks at what is known and unknown, to yourself and others. And then each quadrant is labeled to summarize its characteristics:

Johari Window Model

As you can see, the 4 boxes are:

  • The Open Area (known by yourself, and know by others too)
  • The Blind Spot (unknow by yourself, but known by others)
  • The Hidden Area (known by yourself, but unknown by others)
  • The Unknown (unknown by yourself, and unknown by others too)

The value of reflecting on these different ‘windows’ is that each one offers you a different approach to personal development.

A tool for personal development

Personal development takes many different forms, the 70 / 20 / 10 model may be familiar to you, and the Johari Window provides another complementary and unique perspective.

Each window provides a different vehicle for development:

Johari Window development actions
  • The Open Area: ideal for personal development discussions
  • The Blind Spot: creates an opportunity to seek feedback
  • The Hidden Area: gives you the opportunity to share, thoughtfully
  • The Unknown: offers you the opportunity to unlock your potential with fresh challenges

Take a look at my Johari Window personal examples, below.

The Johari Window: personal examples

The Johari Window can be used in a couple of different ways. In my case, I’ve used it as a model to guide my development through self-reflection and personal action.

Here are my Johari Window personal examples:

In the Open Area, during career and development conversations with my manager, I discuss the personal development needs that we’re both aware of. These currently include:

  • Developing my confidence in engaging C-level executives
  • Gaining experience of leading global projects
  • Improving my workshop facilitation skills (particularly for large and complex workshops)

The Blind Spot offers the opportunity to seek feedback from coworkers, your manager, and your team. I do this on a regular basis. This helps me to:

  • Build relationships with my coworkers
  • Gain insights into how I can improve my performance
  • Demonstrate to my manager that I’m actively managing my personal development

And if you’re asking yourself “How can I seek feedback on a blind spot? I don’t know what I don’t know!” remember that how you seek feedback can vary.

You can ask for feedback on specific skills, but you can also ask open questions such as “What’s one thing I should do differently, that would really enhance my performance?“.

There’s more here on seeking feedback.

The Hidden Area has several different applications. I consider this area and decide what to share about myself when I’m:

  • Delivering presentations: to make sure that I position myself correctly to achieve my presentation goals
  • Greeting new colleagues: so that they quickly understand how I can support them and the value that I offer
  • Building relationships: sharing more of myself with others, in a thoughtful way, helps me to build trusting and collaborative relationships

The Unknown is the fun zone! It’s all about discovering your potential through new activities. This is your opportunity to cultivate a growth mindset, create new challenges for yourself, learn and grow.

If you’re not sure what challenges to take up, look at our 30-day challenge ideas (not all growth has to be serious, you can have fun too!).

Your Johari Window exercises

You can use the Johari Window for personal reflection and personal development planning, as I have done.

This involves reflecting and acting on 4 questions:

  • The Open Area: what would be the most useful personal development needs for me to discuss with my manager?
  • The Blind Spot: how should I seek feedback from my manager, team and coworkers?
  • The Hidden Area: what more can I share with people when I’m delivering presentations, greeting new colleagues, or building trusted relationships?
  • The Unknown: what new challenges should I set myself?!

You can also use the Johari Window to enable more productive 1-1 conversations and team discussions.

1-1 conversations & team discussions

Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham conceived a Johari Window exercise that involves a list of adjectives which the participants select from and place in the ‘windows’ of the model. This provides the basis for powerful discussions that fuels personal growth and team building.

There are a couple of online resources that allow you to complete your Johari Window, in collaboration with others, in a virtual environment. – the interface looks clunky, but it actually works well! – a template from Miro, the online collaborative whiteboard platform.

Use the Johari Window as I have, by reflecting and acting on each ‘window’, or to enable a 1-1 or team discussion.

It will give you a fresh and unique perspective on development opportunities!

Colin Bates

Colin Bates

I'm at my best when helping people to learn, grow and succeed. This might be facilitating a training program, coaching a colleague, or sharing advice with my kids. I'm also an introvert by nature, and love to read, reflect and write. Hence this blog!