The “Johari Window” – as applied to Bankers and Entrepreneurs

JohariAn old favourite of mine, the ‘Johari Window’ will be known to many as a tool to help people understand themselves and work better in a team.

I employed it in appraisals with bank managers who reported into me. It is a perfect tool however to understand what is going on between bankers and entrepreneurs when things go wrong.

A lot of theory and ideas about this tool, as ‘taught’ by consultants or on the internet, will leave you uninterested. People often think the origins of this model are in the Far East, but the truth is much more prosaic. The name comes from the two guys that thought it up – whose first names were Joe and Harry.

How to explain it simply: it is a hypothetical set of windows where one party (let’s say the banker) is standing at the front of a house and the other (let’s say the entrepreneur) is standing to the side. One room is dual aspect; they can both see in it and understand what is in there. Each however has another room that only they can see in. It’s more complicated than that but let’s keep it simple.

The point of this is that each party should work to get as much stuff into the room that they can both see into – ‘stuff’ being facts, opinions, personal information, knowledge, the reason why you behave like you do etc. Once there you can apply the security alert moto they use in London now, namely ‘See it, Say it, Sort it’.

So how is this useful when I sit in on meetings between bankers and their entrepreneur clients (often in a ‘marriage guidance’ or refereeing role):

  • Bankers and entrepreneurs are known to think differently (as covered in my presentation ‘Entrepreneurs are from Mars, Bankers are from?). Yet they are both business people who can understand complex issues if they are explained to them. The problem comes from a combination of one not feeling they should have to explain and the other not wanting to hear what is being said or relating to it.
  • There are a lot of technical and internal issues in a banker’s world. Much is irrelevant to a customer and would be of no interest – but some things drive behaviour and decisions which without the context of what is behind them might appear irrational or annoying.
  • Entrepreneurs are in business for many different reasons and often the key thing to understand is the ‘Why’ – what is driving that person to behave the way that they do. This could be behind what appears to a banker to be irrational or dysfunctional behaviour.
  • They are often talking about finance that the entrepreneur is seeking and that becomes ‘the issue’. However finance is normally ‘the symptom’ – if something is not happening as it should it reveals itself in the finances – so sometimes the underlying issues don’t get discussed.
  • A lesson in life: you cannot tell a woman that her baby is ugly. Entrepreneurs often don’t like to hear a banker’s opinion on how they are running their business so the whole process of feedback, giving and taking advice becomes tricky. Easier to avoid the discussion.
  • There are just very different levels of competency and abilities amongst bankers and their clients. Some get it, some don’t. Some are good communicators, some aren’t.

So the message here is that relationships between bankers and entrepreneurs have to be more effective for the good of UK Plc. Some lessons from ‘Joe and Harry’ would be good.