The Power Tool That Boosts Emotional Intelligence & Consciousness 


Did you know that emotional intelligence is responsible for 58 percent of our performance? When I first saw that article I thought, “that makes sense”…but then I paused. There was a piece of the puzzle missing. How could they not talk about diversity and inclusion? 


Which got me thinking…I am not hearing enough people talk about why we MUST talk about cultural difference, bias, and intersectionality if we’re talking about emotional intelligence. If we’re NOT talking explicitly about equity and belonging during these times–we have blindspots.  


Speaking of which, I’ll never forget the day I learned about the impact unconscious biases and blindspots have on everyday moments in cross-race dynamics. It was 2012, I was at a Coaching For Equity Seminar hosted by the National Equity Project, and I was beginning my second year in a leadership position. My eyes were wide when I saw the research and statistics on how implicit bias plays-out with individuals, in our systems, and in our relationships. As a white woman from Texas who had lived in the Bay Area for 6 years, I was overcome by a wave of shame and guilt about all that I hadn’t known. And yet…

  • On that day, in that conference room in Oakland, a lightbulb went off.
  • On that day, my perspective on leadership and cross-race dynamics shifted forever.
  • On that day, I made a commitment to learn (and unlearn) as much as I possibly could—so I could be the best version of myself as a leader.

That’s the thing about blindspots–once we know they’re there, we get to do something about them.

So, upon returning from that event, I went back and asked my coach to call out any instances he saw unconscious biases playing out. Thankfully, he agreed to do so (and he did so with such grace and thoughfulness). Here are two micro-examples of my unconscious bias I remember being called out on:

  • In a meeting with my team, he mentioned that I had closed-off body language (my arms were crossed, I was leaned back) when a particular colleague spoke (a colleague with whom I had had several disagreements prior). I had no idea I was giving off that energy. My intention was not to be negative, but my unconscious bias was in the driver’s seat.
  • I was told one of my African American colleagues raised his hand to speak up. Several white colleagues kept talking over him and either didn’t see him OR ignored his nonverbal communication. My coach told me I did nothing to address the situation, because I also didn’t see his hand. My intention was to always facilitate open, collaborative experiences, but that was clearly not his experience. I felt terrible. But thankfully my coach held up the mirror for me with thoughtfulness and grace, and I was able to loop back with my colleague.

In the moment, however, I missed the opportunity to lead. I missed the opportunity to be an ally. I missed the opportunity to learn in public. I missed the opportunity to spark a conversation.


To be honest, it breaks my heart to think about all the missed opportunities I had as a leader those first few years.


Blindspots were illuminated everyday, and as a white woman in a position of authority, it wasn’t easy to face them. (and this learning never stops)


Facing them was inconvenient. It made me feel like I was wrong.


Facing them also meant I had to unlearn stories and lessons from the past.


That process was (and will likely always be) anything but easy.


Thanks to my amazing leadership coach at the time, however, I saw all the invisible tensions embedded in the fabric of my context, and I was able to practice new habits of intentional reflection, engagement, and action–which ultimately allowed me to lead with more authentic self-awareness.


Through the process of learning, unlearning, and sharing my process with others, I realized that we all have blind-spots, and we all have learning to do.


Since then I committed to continue uncovering my blindspots, and it’s at the heart of everything I do at SPARK Leadership.


A few years ago as I began coaching more executives and administrators, I found myself looking for tools to help me help others.


So, what did I do? I consulted the oracle. (smile)

I googled “emotional intelligence tools” and found the Johari Window, which felt like hitting the jackpot, because it was the first easy-to-use tool that I found. I couldn’t believe folks weren’t using it in education spaces. 


The Innovation center describes the tool as “one of the most useful models for describing the creation of trust in human interaction. A four-paned “window” divides personal awareness into four types: open, hidden, blind and unknown. The lines dividing these four panes are like window shades – they can move as an interaction progresses. We build trust by opening our personal shades to others so that we become an open window.”


Here’s why I love tools like this: even though we all have blindspots, our brains also have neuroplasticity, meaning that we can retrain our brains and build new synapses. We can also unlearn unproductive narratives and counteract unconscious biases–with intentional reflection, engagement, and action. This tool helps us do that with intentionality.


Because improving emotional intelligence takes work, and requires awareness AND willingness, I was grateful to have a tool that would help me help others and see immediate results.  


Don’t get me wrong, there’s no silver bullet or perfect solution to this work. There are a thousand different versions out there, and if you google “johari window” you’ll see many many images, videos, and examples…which is awesome. For me, the perfect fit has been a mashup of some of my favorite tools, grounded in my S.P.A.R.K. acronym and framework.


That’s what I’m excited to share with you today: the Johari Window-With A SPARK–is a power-tool that helps us raise awareness, navigate, and eliminate blind spots with intentionality.


Following these six steps, with my intentional tool, you’ll boost your emotional intelligence. You’ll:

  1. Ground in your Leadership SPARK (values and aspirations)
  2. Reflect on your “open” windows (what both you and others know)
  3. Reflect on your “hidden” windows (what you know but others don’t know)
  4. Reflect on your “blindspots” (what others know but you don’t)
  5. Reflect on potential “unknowns” (what neither you nor others know)
  6. Set intentions and commitments (so you can lead with more EI and in alignment with your values)


Once you fill it out, the window metaphor make more sense.  


By doing so we are able to know ourselves better AND engage the talents of our brilliant communities. We’re able to see that we’re both unique and connected.


We can even facilitate conversations better and foster environments that fuel productive change–with more authentic self-awareness.


Wanna see my guide (and a sneak-peak at my *raw* handwritten-notes)? *I’m all about learning in public and showing examples of works-in-progress so we can normalize that we’ll always be learning and growing.  

Click here to download the fillable tool and see my examples!


If you’re interested in reviewing your results with a goal-setting tool, setting up a strategic plan for leading with EI, and unpacking what all this means for your leadership…we might be a good fit to work together. Just email me at or click here…and I’ll send you more deets!


Rachel Rosen, the founder of S.P.A.R.K. Community and S.P.A.R.K. Leadership, is on a mission to start a global conversation about inclusion, courageous leadership, and racial equity. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. experiences are grounded in theory and practice–all in service of making the world a better place. With love. For justice. 


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