Leadership Coaching Frameworks: Using the Johari Window to Address Unconscious Bias in Teams

Unconscious bias can pose significant challenges in team dynamics, hindering collaboration and hindering the overall success of a team. As a team leader, it is essential to recognize and address these biases to foster an inclusive and productive work environment. One effective tool for achieving this is the Johari Window. Let us explore how the Johari Window can assist team leaders in helping their team members overcome unconscious bias. We will discuss its benefits, provide thought-provoking questions, present relevant data, and offer practical exercises to promote self-awareness and growth within the team.

Understanding the Johari Window:

The Johari Window, developed by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, is a model that illustrates how individuals perceive themselves and how others perceive them. It consists of four quadrants: Open, Blind, Hidden, and Unknown. Let’s delve into each quadrant and explore how it can help address unconscious bias.

johari window global coaching lab

Open Quadrant:

In this quadrant, an individual’s behavior, feelings, and thoughts are known to themselves and others. Team leaders can encourage open communication, fostering trust and transparency within the team. By sharing personal experiences and insights, team members can gain a deeper understanding of one another, leading to a reduction in unconscious bias.

Thought-provoking question: What steps can you take to create a safe space for open dialogue within your team?

Blind Quadrant:

The blind quadrant represents aspects of an individual’s behavior or characteristics that are known to others but not to themselves. To address unconscious biases in this quadrant, team leaders can provide constructive feedback and initiate discussions on perceptions. By facilitating open conversations, team members become aware of their blind spots, encouraging personal growth and minimizing biases.

Data: According to a study by Harvard Business Review, employees who receive feedback are 9 times more likely to be engaged and perform at their best.

Practical exercise: Conduct a 360-degree feedback session, where team members share their observations and feedback on each other’s strengths and areas of improvement.

Hidden Quadrant:

The hidden quadrant involves aspects known to oneself but concealed from others. Unconscious biases can manifest in this quadrant when team members withhold relevant information due to fear or discomfort. Team leaders can promote trust and psychological safety, creating an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their hidden thoughts and experiences. This helps in overcoming biases and building stronger connections.

Thought-provoking question: How can you encourage vulnerability and openness within your team, allowing team members to share their hidden thoughts?

Unknown Quadrant:

The unknown quadrant represents aspects that are neither known to the individual nor to others. This quadrant highlights the potential for growth and self-discovery. Team leaders can encourage continuous learning, curiosity, and self-reflection among team members. By exploring the unknown, individuals can uncover their biases, develop empathy, and broaden their perspectives.

Data: Research by Catalyst suggests that teams with high levels of curiosity and psychological safety demonstrate increased innovation and creativity.

Practical exercise: Organize regular team-building activities that expose team members to diverse perspectives and experiences, stimulating curiosity and promoting collective learning.

Application of Johari Window in Executive Coaching

Intentional and deeper conversations with the client often bring up aspects like their identity, strengths that worked for them, decisions they took or did not take to reach the current stage in life, their values, purpose in life, etc. Depending on an individual’s journey, the client may or may not be aware of the various aspects mentioned above.

Johari window offers a simple and effective way to raise a client’s awareness on how they see themselves, how others see and perceive them. The client and those working with them / closer to them choose from a list of adjectives words that describe the client. Once the list is consolidated, the adjectives are populated in the four quadrants of Johari Window based on where they fall. The populated window offers insights on four different dimensions.

  1. The open area /Lobby / Arena – Words that are picked both by client and others.
    1. Blind Spot – The whole world knows about the client’s behaviour while the client is clueless. – words picked up by others and not the client.
    1. Hidden area / Mask – Client intentionally hides certain aspects of themselves from everyone.  – Words picked by client and not by others.
    1. Unknown – Things not known to client as well as others. – All the left-over adjectives from the master list.
  • A shorter Arena would mean that the client may be perceived as superficial in nature, not open and could be perceived as less authentic and could cause trust issues in their environment.
  • A large Blindspot area would mean that the client has less self-awareness and it is possible that the environment is filled with frustration, anger and could cost collaboration and team working.
  • A large hidden area /mask would mean that the client may be perceived as less trustworthy, not being reliable and could cost genuine relationship.
  • A large unknown area would mean that many of the aspects are not explored by the client in their life and could result in a less colourful life in general.

My clients invariably find this insightful, and they get a better appreciation of themselves and how they come up while interacting with the world. This leads them to make a conscious choice of what needs to change and connect it to what is important for them, their aspiration and to their higher purpose in life.

So, what would my client do if they decided to expand the open area? This would mean that they have to work on reducing their blindspots, their masked and unknown area 

Reducing the blindspots — When we proactively and consistently seek feedback, we have an opportunity to listen to others, know what others are seeing and experiencing. Over time, the blind area reduces in size giving way for expanded Arena area.

Reducing the hidden area / masked area — Since this is about one not showing or exhibiting certain behaviours, intentionally and preferentially, the only way to expand this area is through self-disclosure. Not everything needs to be shared in the open and at the same time not everything about us needs to be a secret. There is some work done here to evaluate what can be shared judiciously and what is better not shared as they may not create any value. Clients usually discuss with coach about their view on why certain aspects some need to be secretive, and this could break the myth of concerns of safety, holy cow etc. When the masked area is judiciously reduced, it would result in more Arena area.

Reducing the unknown area — This quadrant is something that no one knows and lies in the unexplored region of unconsciousness. The client chooses to explore a few of the adjectives in this quadrant and explores with a coach and discovers if of them would move to other quadrants. This usually results in client exploring aspects of life and interests that they have forgotten or pushed down and usually results in the client embracing a more colourful life.

(Insights by Executive Coach Vijayakumar R)

Summing Up

Addressing unconscious bias within a team is crucial for fostering an inclusive and harmonious work environment. The Johari Window provides a valuable framework for team leaders to guide their team members through self-awareness and personal growth. By exploring the quadrants and engaging in thought-provoking questions, leveraging relevant data, and implementing practical exercises, team leaders can help their team members overcome unconscious bias, leading to enhanced collaboration, productivity, and overall success.

Remember, creating an environment where everyone feels valued and respected is an ongoing process, and team leaders play a vital role in nurturing such a culture of inclusivity.

How would you rate your self-awareness? Would you want to give a try on Johari window to explore options and further colour your life?

Author: Chandrani Datta with Coach Vijayakumar R

Vijayakumar R is a seasoned Executive Coach renowned for empowering leaders and teams to achieve unparalleled success. His unique blend of Systemic Team Coaching, Executive Coaching, NLP, and Emotional Intelligence Coaching maximizes impact and fuels evolution. With a background in technology and psychology, he optimizes emotional and rational coaching facets. His diverse global leadership background allows tailored coaching experiences, consistently driving growth and transformation.


  • Chandrani Datta

    Chandrani Datta works as a Manager-Content Research and Development with almost a decade’s experience in writing and editing of content. A former journalist turned content manager, Chandrani has written and edited for different brands cutting across industries. The hunger for learning, meaningful work and novel experiences keeps her on her toes. An avid traveller, Chandrani’s interests lie in photography, reading and watching movies.

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