Tools I Learned in Psychology that Actually Help People at Work: The Johari Window

May 14, 2013 12:06 pm

The world of behavioral psychology and business seems to try to keep their distance.   However, we are human, and we are human all the time, even at work.  When we show up every day, we bring our thoughts, emotions, and feelings, and they trickle out in our interactions with our boss, peers, and direct reports.

There are tools, owned in the psychology world, designed by theorists that have been very successful in helping groups or individuals understand why they seem stuck and can’t get results at work.  This blog series will explore the ones that I have personally used with groups, or during individual coaching sessions, that got people unstuck and moving forward into the performance they wanted.


Tool #1 – The JOHARI Window
Where did it come from? JOHARI is an acronym for the names of the theorists who invented it – Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955.
What is its purpose? The purpose is to provide self-awareness.  It has also been used to help people identify their strengths, and areas to explore for future development.
How does it work? Participants are given of list of 56 adjectives and they have to pick the 5-6 that best describes them.  The list is then given to the other team members to select 5-6 adjectives to describe the participant.  Once the participant has the list of objectives, they are plotted on a four-part square.  See the diagram below.
How we use this with clients? This does not take the place of a full personality assessment, or a 360 degree feedback session of identified competencies.  It is used to provide a “snapshot” of how participants identify themselves, and how others may identify them.  Its benefit is entirely self-awareness, as it becomes knowledge for participants to use for action and move through change, if desired.  This tool is often the starting point to bring self-awareness to the group, and understand that others have different perceptions.


I have used this tool in the following ways:
  • Team development working with an intact group/team
  • Self-awareness of what is seen by team members
  • Teams with team dynamic improvement needs
  • Individual coaching sessions
Arena:  Adjectives that are selected by both the participant and his/her peers.  This area of the quadrant represents traits of the subjects that both they and their peers are aware.


Façade:  Adjectives selected only by participants, and not by the peers. This area represents information their peers are unaware of.


Blind Spot:  Adjectives not selected by the participant, but by the peers. This area represents information that the participant may not be aware of, but others are.


Unknown:  All other adjectives that were not selected. This may be because the adjectives do not apply, or because there is collective ignorance of the existence of these traits.  This may be the future potential of the participant.


Stay tuned for the next tool in the series, “The Ladder of Inference!”

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