Dynamics in teams: moving from the what to the ‘how’

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”

A small, simple, yet profound framework – the Johari window, nearly passed me by in my work as a business psychologist. When I first met the Johari window nearly 20 years ago, I didn’t appreciate its depth. It looks so simple and it was easily forgettable, its power unappreciated and unused.

Now I use this framework all the time with teams as a way of articulating how to become more than the sum of the parts. To achieve this, we’ve got to share more than we think is necessary to build and strengthen our working relationships. Sharing our preferences and habits, and perhaps even sharing some of our concerns, our fears, our vulnerabilities.

In case you haven’t come across it, the Johari window is a very simple framework that highlights the importance of shining a light on what’s hidden or unsaid about a person’s style or perspectives. In essence this opens up a rich shared space, or in Johari terms, the public window.

Opening the public frame is fundamental to enable teams to grow and move from transactional doing together to transformational ways of being together.

But how? Opening things up can feel risky …. and yet it’s essential if teams are to be able to move forward at pace as boards, management or project teams. In our complex and ambiguous world, without the luxury of years, or even months to scale up and move forward, traction needs to be generated at a deeper level.

In opening up the that public window, it’s important to go beyond the first step of ‘this is me: What You See Is What You Get’. Leaving people in teams at this stage, self-awareness, and nothing more doesn’t actually do much to open the public window, build Emotional Intelligence or strengthen working relationships. At it’s worst it might leave people feeling alienated and frustrated, with a sense  of ‘this is me and you need to accommodate me’

From an Emotional Intelligence perspective, self-awareness is just the start. Sharing the soft underbelly of what makes you you is required and considering how you manage that in order to work with, influence and impact others starts to move the team forward into a more transformational space. 

How to get there? Back to the Johari window. The first two simple activities are:

  • Disclosure – share those things that are relevant to building the shared space – preferences, habits, styles, thinking, assumptions
  • Feedback – reflect back to the other person what you notice, how they impact, what would be even better, how the assumptions are different to yours.

And the third activity, having completed the first two steps:

  • Given what we now know, what ways of working (habits, structures, processes) do we need to build to enable us to work excellently together?

When working with teams, the energy shifts in the room through all these activities. With the second in particular, giving feedback to colleagues, there is a sense of people steeling themselves, as they hope for powerful yet challenging conversations.

Whether with Boards, Senior Management Teams, or cohorts of Consultants, this session on Personality in Teams, has worked every time. The downloadable guide uses Aptimore as the underpinning personality tool.

Every time I see this in action, I am in awe of the care, skill and power of teams learning how to work better together using a gentle guiding hand to support them to have the conversations that they didn’t realise they so desperately needed to have.