Saturday 13 April 2024

Joe, Harry and Nancy

I have long liked the Johari Window (so named after its inventors, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham).

The essential idea is that there is stuff about me that I am aware of, and that is known to others with whom I work, that constitutes my work persona: the open area, or arena, as it is sometimes called. 

Then there are things that I know that I choose not to reveal to others, for whatever reason; I maintain a façade; moreover, there are things that are clear to those who work with me, but of which I am ignorant - my blind spots; and finally, there are things that are unknown both to me and those I work with - the unknown area.

The assumption is that for effective work with colleagues and in teams, the larger the arena, the better. Thus if I am holding out on people, by hiding my true thoughts, feelings, intentions etc behind a façade, it will be harder for others to work with me effectively. Likewise, if my behaviour is having an impact of which I am unaware, due to my blind spots, we will not work as well together.

So Joe and Harry recommend that one reduces the Façade, through disclosure; and reduces the Blind Spot, by seeking feedback. The result of that will be a larger Arena, and the Unknown area will also reduce.

(Incidentally, analysis based on the Johari Window is thought to be the origin of Rumsfeld's famous 'unknown unkowns.')

Enter Nancy. Or rather, here's my freshest thinking, arising from having just run a Coaching Programme focussing on Nancy Kline's Thinking Environment. When we think, in the presence of a skilled Thinking Partner, using the Thinking Environment approach, and are encouraged to keep exploring our thinking, as happens in the Thinking Environment, we often hear ourselves say things about ourselves that surprise us. That is, we uncover and explore Blind Spots. Further, we do this in the presence of, and normally aloud to, our Thinking Partner or Coach. That also reduces our Façade.

That insight, that we can discover Blind Spots by ourselves, by a process of reflection, (rather than only by gaining feedback), also applies, of course, to other practices, such as Journalling, and (some types of) meditation. But the effect of having these discoveries witnessed by others is peculiar to discovering them out loud in the presence of someone else.

In discussing this with the ever-insightful Jane (my co-Director, Boss and Wife of some 40 years) she pointed out that disclosure, in confidence, to a coach is not the same as reducing one's façade at work. And of course she is quite correct. 

However something I have frequently observed is that people who have practiced (one might even say rehearsed) disclosure in a very safe environment, are more likely then to risk disclosure in the work place. In part, that is because they have removed a blind spot ("I'm not the kind of person who shares that kind of thing...") and in part because they have taken the risk and not experienced the rejection or judgment that they feared.

So if Joe and Harry's assumption (that an larger Arena makes for more effectiveness in teams etc) then I think that Nancy's process is one fast and effective route to that goal.

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