Going Beyond the Johari Window for Virtual TeamsTo suggest a correction please Login

photo credit: Michael Panzner - at the SIETAR Europa Congress in Dublin May 2017
photo credit: Michael Panzner - at the SIETAR Europa Congress in Dublin May 2017

Our consultancy project on a virtual team of five for the MBA at BI Norwegian Business School was a success on several accounts. We were able to apply theory from our corporate finance and strategy courses. There were further learnings on a practical level. One of those learnings was how to work together as a cross-cultural virtual team.

Our team rejoiced after we achieved top marks for the project. The company sponsoring the project was also happy with our work. It was seeking investors for its project and our team helped it reach its goals.

After we completed our project, our team decided on its own to conduct a Johari Window. This allowed us to build self-awareness and to discuss our team dynamics. Why were we a successful team? How could we improve when working on other teams in the future?

Our team took the opportunity to hold a Google Hangout to discuss the Johari Window results with each other. This helped us gain insights into our own behaviour. Discussions led to valuable criticism that could help us when working in other teams in the future. That was back in 2015.

The Johari Window for the SIETAR Europa Congress Steering Committee 

Moving forward to 2017, I decided to engage in another Johari Window. This time, as a congress coordinator at the SIETAR Europa congress in Dublin, with the steering committee of eight. In addition, I decided to go beyond the Johari Window to introduce some extra team-building.

As with our consultancy project team in 2015, the steering committee used the adjectives from this site. To go beyond the Johari Window, I also added a new element. We took the opportunity to ask each other open-ended questions and to share an example of a weakness we bring to the team. In terms of weakness, a lot of people mentioned that time was a main limitation because the team is a voluntary one. Each member also took the time to answer all the questions each other member on the steering committee asked.

This time around, in our post-Johari discussions, we mentioned the advantages and disadvantages of using a pre-planned list of vocabulary to describe people vs. just letting people freely choose any words to describe people. Providing a pre-planned list helps show which words team members use the most to describe each other. It makes it easier to conduct a Johari Window. It helps show which characteristics are most obvious to our teammates. The drawback is that it limits the range of feedback to just certain words and it lacks depth. To add depth, a post-Johari Window discussion can be an effective way to analyse the results. That way, we were able to transcend some of those limitations. It also helped as a trust-building exercise. Going beyond the Johari Window, allowed us to see beyond our blind spots. We were able to begin dialogues based on the answers to the questions we asked each other.

Johari Window and Nohari Window

My presentation in Dublin on the Johari Window was part of a panel of three focusing on virtual teamwork. The other two panel members took the opportunity to practice with me before the congress. During the practice, I also spoke with panel members Gradiola Kapaj and Pia Moberg about the Nohari Window. The Nohari Window is a negative version of the Johari Window. We discussed how the Nohari would never work in Japan. The Nohari Window should help us explore our perceived weaknesses vs. the weaknesses others see in us. We never used the Nohari with the steering committee and I decided not to mention it during the congress presentation.

At the beginning of my presentation in Dublin I asked the attendees in the room if they had heard of the Johari Window and most raised their hands. It is a classic tool from 1955 and still very popular. When I asked how many had used the tool in the past six months, most again raised their hands. So I confirmed that a large number agree that the tool is still relevant. My thoughts are that the Johari Window also applies well for virtual teams.

After I presented, it was time for Q & A. We engaged in a discussion about trust. I feel that trust is the most important part of building a successful virtual team. This is also something that we saw from the engagement in Frederik Fogelberg’s webinar on virtual teams from SIETAR Europa.



Using the Johari Window to Build Trust in Virtual Teams

Many people in the audience agree. In my experience, the Johari Window is also a tool in trust building. So a team could take the opportunity to reflect by using the Johari Window to build long-term trust.

As with the steering committee, those attending in Dublin also debated on whether to use the pre-set list of adjectives. To have team members choose their own adjective without prompting would allow for greater depth. Many felt that the pre-set list was easier to use and easier to analyse, but some felt that if you have the extra time to spend that it is worthwhile to let the team members choose their own descriptions and elaborations.

We also talked about how words can be perceived differently from one culture to the next. Participants who do not have English as a native language may miss out on the nuances in the language.

Now that the presentation is over and I take some time to reflect on the tool, I would recommend balancing positive and negative. Why not use both the Johari Window and the Nohari Window? For example, a team could choose three positive attributes and three negative attributes. As we mentioned earlier, for some cultures this may not work. For a strong team and those with cross cultural preparation to stomach the negative feedback, it could prove to be insightful.

How many of you have tried the Nohari? What kind of results did you have? Would you recommend it and why or why not?

Click here to read another post about the Johari Window (in Italian) on Yozzi.

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