How well do you know yourself?

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers

Coaching Skills Series

This is one of many articles I intend to post this year considering the range of principles, skills and experiences you’ll need to be an effective coaching manager for the people in your team.

This post is about the importance of self-awareness for the coach. Check back in about a fortnight for a further look at effective listening.

JohariIn an earlier post we examined the principle of awareness and saw that before anything can improve we must first increase our awareness of how it is now. This applies to us as coaching managers as much as anything else. We too must increase of awareness of how we are; how we are coaching now, and the effects of our own behaviour alongside raising awareness of these things in those whom we coach to move forward.

The Johari window (see the diagram above) is a very useful model for developing self awareness. It was conceived by Joe Luft and Harry Ingram (hence the name) as a means of identifying interpersonal communication style. It suggests there are two sources from which we learn about our impact and communication style: ourselves and others.

The open/free area includes behaviour thoughts and feelings that both we and others know. The fact that we and others hold similar information creates more effective personal communication. In fact, the underlying assumption of the whole model is that the effectiveness of our personal communication increases the larger this window becomes.

The blind area represents aspects not known to ourselves but readily apparent to others. The red faced, scowling manager claiming, “I’m not angry” and the customer saying, “Yes, I understand” whilst frowning and looking puzzled are classic examples.

The secret area represents the thoughts and feelings we keep to ourselves. The secret area represents a large part of our behaviour when amongst strangers – where not a lot is known about each other and trust is low.

The unknown area represents the most deeply rooted aspects of our personality which are not apparent to ourselves or others around us. It is really the realm of highly trained psychologists and of less importance in everyday coaching although we may conclude that our untapped potential lies in this area.

If we agree that larger open windows lead to greater self awareness and more effective communication then the question becomes how do we enlarge the open window?

To widen the open window, that is to have less ‘secrets’; fewer things ‘not known to others’, requires us to disclose. As managers who coach we need to be prepared to take a lead on this and be willing to share things with our coachee that may initially feel uncomfortable. This can include revealing that you are new to coaching and anxious about ‘getting it right’ or doing it well’. This can also act as a powerful way of building trust and demonstrating the value of not holding things back.

To deepen the open window, that is to have fewer ‘blind spots’; fewer things ‘not known to ourselves’ requires effective feedback. This means as coaches we need to be open to feedback and encourage our coachees to tell us what they valued about our coaching, what they would have liked more of or less of, etc.



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Comments (2)

  • Chris Harbach


    I use this exercise annually, ever since I first discovered it in Matts book “Coaching in the Workplace”. I like to use it alongside a 360° feedback review from my bosses, peers and direct reports. It’s surprising how other people see you against your own self image. I hate presenting to large numbers but have been told I’m engaging and get my point across well with humour. .. whereas I love one to one coaching but have received feed back that I can micro manage if I’m leading a high importance project.
    Feedback is always good, especially when you can align it against your own image of yourself and this exercise is a great little tool to help you do just that.


  • Matt Somers


    Thanks Chris, I’m glad you have found the exercise useful.


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