Reaching into our untapped potential is a trip into the unknown. In this episode we use the Johari Window as a framework to identify four ways to explore our untapped potential.
Hello and welcome to episode 48 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we look at untapped potential through the lens of the Johari Window.
One of the best known frameworks in self-development is the Johari Window. I remember a presenter using an overly-posh voice to call it the “Yoharri Window” as if they were a 1960’s mystic whispering to a botanically infused George Harrison. In truth, the name Johari comes from the two researchers that developed the framework - Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham - Jo and Hari. Let me give you a super fast overview so we can then talk about untapped potential.
The method Jo and Hari developed back in the 1950s involves individuals selecting words that they feel best represent them from a list of adjectives. Then others that know the person also select words to represent the individual. In the final step, these words are sorted into four quadrants based on the level of independence or overlap between the lists.
The words that are in common go into the top left quadrant, representing things that the individual knows about themselves that others also see in them. Perhaps the individual sees themselves as outgoing and confident, and others also recognise these traits. This quadrant is the Arena - it’s what we present to the world.
Words that others identify that the individual doesn’t select for themselves go in the top right quadrant. These words reflect aspects that are known to others, but not known to the individual. Perhaps others see the individual as competitive and active, while the individual doesn’t see those qualities in themselves. This quadrant is typically called the Blind Spot. We can extend the Arena quadrant and decrease our Blind Spot through feedback. The Johari Window exercise itself was intended as an opportunity to do exactly that. As we see ourselves the way others see us, we build our self-awareness.
Words that an individual identifies for themselves that others don’t use go in the lower left quadrant, titled the Mask. These are things we see in ourselves that others don’t see. Through disclosure we can extend our Arena and decrease the Mask. Doing this can help us to build relationships with others, as we become more known.
That leaves one remaining quadrant - the Unknown where things are unknown to us and unknown to others. It’s usually at this point that discussions move on - where we explore the benefits of feedback and disclosure further. However I think there are benefits to exploring this quadrant further. Sticking to the other quadrants is really about expanding knowledge about who we are now. We can let others know more about who we are now. Or we can seek feedback to learn more about who we are now. The final quadrant provides a different opportunity. Instead of just expanding knowledge, it’s actually about expanding who we are now.
So how do we explore the untapped potential resting in the unknown?
Try new things - expand your interests, even if they don’t appear to be directly applicable to your work. The calligraphy classes Steve Jobs attended out of interest lead to typeface being one of Apple’s early differentiators in desktop publishing.
Seek additional responsibilities - take the box you have been given in your job and push it outwards. Work with your manager to take things off their plate.
Connect with new people - work with people in your network to make new connections to explore their experiences and backgrounds.
Relentlessly seek feedback - as you are expanding into the unknown, you will benefit from targeted feedback. Don’t just ask for general feedback, ask about specific elements relating to your new efforts.
The Unknown quadrant is about exploring new areas and trying new things. The Johari window is a helpful framework to help us to know ourselves and be known by others as we are now. But it also provides a reminder that our boundaries are not fixed, rather they are there to be tested and expanded.