SELF-DISCLOSURE AND FEEDBACK-- THE KEYSTONE OF COMMUNICATION


SELF-DISCLOSURE AND FEEDBACK— THE KEYSTONE OF COMMUNICATION

In the example above, Sue missed an opportunity to practice her self-disclosure and feedback skills. She had a chance to tell Bob how his reluctance to call on the difficult customer made her feel. Maybe she was feeling dismissed or disrespected by Bob. Since she is Bob's boss, perhaps she felt he was being insubordinate. Regardless of what Sue was feeling, she missed the opportunity to have the discussion with Bob and instead wrote him off as untrustworthy. Is Bob untrustworthy, or is there more to the story?

This example illustrates why mastering the art of self-disclosure and feedback is critical to business success. Taking the time to communicate with Bob and creating a safe, open, two-way dialogue would have generated the flow of information between two conduits of intelligence. Bob may have been reluctant to call on the customer for a variety of reasons unknown to Sue. Perhaps the customer was not interested in the product or service, or had acted in ways that offended or hurt Bob and the company. Perhaps there were relationship issues between Bob and the customer. Bob may have been uncomfortable in sharing these issues with Sue, or may have not even understood them himself. No matter the reason, what Sue ended up with was silence. She cut off communication with Bob, declared him untrustworthy, and so began the downward cycle of broken trust.

How often does this kind of situation happen in your business? With compressed timelines, looming deadlines, and more work than there are people or time to do it, who has the time to explore the dynamics of a seemingly minor incident? When creating a foundation for openness, it is precisely these types of situations that require our attention. Why? Taking the difficult customer away from Bob and giving the call to Mark was like the example of the pebble tossed in the pond we used in Chapter 1. Sue sent a message—never mind that it was vague and unclear. What others saw was that Bob was taken off and Mark put on, with no reason given. Sue simply didn't want to invest any more energy in understanding why Bob was refusing to call on the customer. Her frustration with Bob won out, and they both lost. Bob never had the opportunity to explore with his boss his reluctance to call on the customer, and Sue lost the opportunity to learn more about the issue. Altogether, this incident was an important opportunity to share intelligence and a missed opportunity to problem-solve, build win-win solutions, and, most important, restore trust.

The JoHari Window—Building a Culture of Trust

The JoHari Window (see Figure 8), the model developed by and named for Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, can help demonstrate how self-disclosure and feedback and the ability to trust are interrelated. It can also help us to understand the complexity of self-awareness and communication.

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Figure 8: The JoHari Window

Stephen Dent's book Partnering Intelligence: Creating Value for Your Business by Building Strong Alliances details how the model can be used for building trust at both the individual and team level. The principles are relevant at the organization and cultural level as well. When people get to know each other and have similar amounts of information about each other, they are more likely to have things in common. Although we may find the notion disturbing, human beings are hard-wired to be more comfortable around people who are like them. These similarities become the foundation for the development of trust.

In a business culture, information flows freely when people feel comfortable and trust those with whom they are communicating— otherwise they tend to hold information close to the vest and not share as much. If an organization is filled with people who are reluctant to trust and do not share information freely, opportunities can be lost. But more important, opportunities can simply go unrecognized due to lack of communication.

The JoHari Window demonstrates how improving our ability to self-disclose and provide feedback can help us explore the unknown, create opportunity, and improve the bottom line. The four "panes" of the JoHari Window—the Arena, the Blind Spot, the Facade, and the Unknown—each represent an element of ourselves and how others might see us.

The Arena

The Arena represents the aspect of yourself that both you and your partner know about each other. For example, you may know each other's job title, but do you really understand the roles and responsibilities that each of you have in the organization? The most productive relationships have large Arenas because a great deal of information sharing is occurring and both partners know a lot about each other and demonstrate a balance between self-disclosure and feedback. Powerhouse Partners understand that the more information is shared, the greater the opportunity to generate business.

The Blind Spot

We never like to admit it, but we all have a Blind Spot, where others can see something in us that we cannot. When you provide me with feedback, you are reducing my Blind Spot and widening our Arena. While I may not like your pointing out behaviors that I may not be aware of or that may not be flattering, it is important that I see myself the way others do and decide if I want to change the behavior.

The Facade

The Facade serves to hide our secret side, one that only we know about. It may be something personal, or something business related, or both. For example, I may not be a trusting person naturally. My style may be such that you have to earn my trust. If I fail to disclose that you must earn my trust, you may never understand why I am always checking up on you. The usual outcome is that you become resentful of my checking up on you all the time and begin not to trust me. However, if when we first meet I explain that you will have to earn my trust and that until that time I will check up on you, while you may not like it, at least you will understand my behavior. By sharing this information with you I have lowered my Facade and increased our Arena.

The Unknown

The Unknown is the land of opportunity. Despite the old adage, what we don't know can hurt us. Getting to the Unknown involves the confluence of information sharing, creativity, and insight. It's what moves product development to the next level. It's the new, new thing. It's what your competitors wish they had thought of. But whatever it is, it almost always happens because of a culture that has nurtured people's trust and allowed them to communicate freely and without self-censorship. It's the motherlode of ideas.

The Delight in Discovering the Mysteries of the Unknown

A large national bank, one of our clients, formed a strategic alliance with a human resources company. The bank's goal for the alliance was to transition the daily management of certain HR transactions to the other company. With nearly 140,000 associates, managing the various transactions in the bank required a large outlay of internal resources. The bank's vision was to refocus on its core business competency—helping its customers with financial solutions to achieve their objectives.

Using the smart partnering model and making it a priority to build trust, the two partners began to build a closer relationship. Over time, the bank transferred many transactional operations to the HR company. As the relationship developed and trust was established, they began to share more strategic information about each other's business goals and objectives. During this period, an "aha!" flashed in front of them. Since the human resources company was working closely with other national and international businesses, why not develop a package solution that would enable it to wrap payroll services with banking services, using, of course, its partner, the bank? A total customer solution that benefited both the HR firm's ability to add value, increase market opportunity, and expand its own services while the bank increased its number of corporate payroll accounts. In addition, this offering provided an entrée into these businesses, giving the bank the opportunity to market financial solutions to the HR company's clients.

To some this business relationship may seem like an obvious strategy, but the reality is that the world is full of potential that never is brought to fruition simply because the people involved have never had the conversation—or were afraid to have the conversation— resulting in the big "aha!" It's the combination of creating a culture where self-disclosure and feedback are valued and building trust to enable human creativity and innovation to take root.

Sadly, most innovation is not lost between external partners but is rather stamped out within an organization. One of the hardest jobs a CEO and the leadership team have is to look objectively at their own corporate culture. Some leaders, especially in large enterprises, may develop a superiority complex that shields them from reality and eventually prevents them from seeing the marketplace as it truly is. These businesses are the most vulnerable to self-deception and denial, creating closed cultures that become moribund. These executives have layers of people to protect them from reality, making it close to impossible for them to receive candid and direct feedback. Compounded by the myths that surround them, self-disclosure becomes impossible, as people fear that anything they say might have a negative impact on the business.

The result, using the language of the JoHari model, is a large Blind Spot and a big Facade. The Wizard of Oz can resort to flashing lights, billowing smoke, and a deafening sound system, but these tricks can't mask the vulnerability of a scared old man manipulating levers behind a curtain. How many Great Ozes are posing as masters of our corporations today, and how long will pyrotechnics and empty rhetoric sustain their enterprises?

Recently, the authors interviewed a client to help its leadership team find ways to increase innovation and generate new ideas within the business. The CEO had become frustrated that employees were not coming up with new, better ideas and complained that the workforce seemed to be wallowing in stagnation. When we suggested that the reason for the lack of inspiration might be that he and his staff were not receptive to new ideas and suggestions, we were immediately dismissed. "That's preposterous," we were told. "Of course we're open to new ideas!" he exclaimed as we were walked to the door. We found that experience deliciously ironic. Is it any wonder they haven't seen any new ideas come across their desks? Not only were they not open to new ideas; they didn't even want to hear that they might not be open to new ideas. Small-mindedness is also a self-reinforcing system. The culture—established and propagated by its leaders—craved what it could not have, and still the leaders were unwilling to think differently about the reasons for the dearth of creativity and innovation. The company's Blind Spot was huge and its Unknown a frightening place. It was easier for them to bounce the consultants and go back to whining.

To assess your own capabilities in self-disclosure and feedback vis-à-vis the JoHari Window, complete Exercise 1 including the score sheet on page 143.

EXERCISE 1: Self-Disclosure and Feedback Assessment

start example

Assessment

Directions:

  1. Pick a context for the assessment; for example, a work team, social club, religious group, or family setting.

  2. Read each of the nine statements carefully. Think about how often you engage in the behavior described within the context you have selected. Be sure to use the same context for each of the nine statements.

  3. Rate each statement based on a scale of 5-2-1 (5 = regularly, 2 = sometimes, 1 = infrequently). Use only the numbers listed (there is no 3 or 4 rating).

  4. Enter the rating for each item next to statement in the "Rating" column and total the score on the bottom line.

    5 = Regularly

    2 = Sometimes

    1 = Infrequently

Statement

Rating

  1. I share my roles and responsibilities with my partner(s).

 
  1. People give me candid feedback.

 
  1. I openly share my personal aspirations with people.

 
  1. I try not to hide unflattering details about my life.

 
  1. I believe people feel comfortable giving me constructive or critical feedback.

 
  1. I spend time after weekends and holidays talking about what I did.

 
  1. I ask people for feedback on my behavior.

 
  1. I know the recreational passions of my partner(s).

 
  1. I openly share my mistakes, hoping others will learn from them.

 

Total Score

 

Score Sheet

Total Score

 

34–45 =

Large Arena

21–33 =

Medium Arena

9–20 =

Small Arena

Use the worksheet below to calculate individual scores for your Arena, Blind Spot, and Facade. Enter your ratings for the specific statements indicated.

Statement 1

______

Statement 6

______

Statement 8

______

Arena Subtotal

______

Statement 2

______

Statement 5

______

Statement 7

______

Blind Spot Subtotal

______

Statement 3

______

Statement 4

______

Statement 9

______

Facade Subtotal

______

end example

After completing the score sheet above, transfer the three subtotals— Arena, Blind Spot, and Facade—to the continuation of the exercise on page 144. Then follow the directions to create a personal Self-Disclosure and Feedback Profile. Instructions for interpreting the profile begin here.