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FIRO- What? Building Awareness of Interpersonal Team Needs in Business

Sarah A Scala, M. Ed & OD, ACC
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

This is the question I often get when I begin a FIRO-B workshop with teams. FIRO-O what? FIRO-B stands for Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation - Behavior. The FIRO-B assessment was created in the 1950’s by Will Schulz to predict how members of the military would interact. This tool is now used in many organizations to help people to understand the interpersonal needs of Inclusion, Control, and Affection.  

Definitions:

  • Inclusion - Relationships and people association
  • Control - Persuasion, decision making, and influencing others
  • Affection - Closeness, connections, and emotional ties to others
  • Expressed - How much does the person initiate the behavior to others
  • Wanted - How much does the person want to receive these behaviors

(Source: Hammer A. and Schnell, E. (2004). Introduction to the FIRO-B Instrument in Organizations.Mountain View, CA: CPP.)

Here is a quick 3-minute video that explains the interesting history of FIRO-B instrument.   

The FIRO-B assessment is completed online before the workshop and usually takes 15 minutes. Results are shared later during the team development workshop. They are rated on a 0 - 9 scale for each need, with 9 being a very high need and 0 being an unnoticeable need. A detailed report is created helping participants understand these results and needs. During the workshop, groups become aware of their Expressed and Wanted levels of Inclusion, Control, and Affection. If participants approve, a team report is also created showing differences and similarities. The team data is quite helpful at understanding team dynamics.

Value of FIRO-B Assessments for Teams

Learning about needs has been important for intact or cross-function teams because it helps members to understand what each member of the team personally needs. Although it may seem, at first glance, that these needs are “soft” and not important for business teams, it is in fact quite helpful to be aware of your own needs and the needs of your team members in order to successfully collaborate.

For example, if you are a manager and you have an Expressed need of Control at a level 9, and your direct report has a Wanted need of Control at level 2, the manager could be driving the associate crazy because they do not want as much control put on them. They may perceive their leader’s Expressed control as micromanaging and may believe that he/she does not trust them.

Results of FIRO-B

The results of the FIRO-B assessment can change over time, unlike some other assessment tools. It is not uncommon for results to change if a person has been through a significant change, trauma, has a new role, or joined a new company. People may feel that they need to behave in different ways based on these changes and their report will show this.

From this awareness, participants are not asked to change their needs to match, but instead asked to be aware of these differences so that they can accommodate the needs of members of their team while having their personal needs met. There are no good or bad results with the FIRO-B assessment, but simply awareness of where people’s needs are.

When I use FIRO-B with corporate teams, participants have later commented that the awareness of needs has truly had an impact on their relationships with the manager and team members. One manager said, a few weeks after the program, “I had no idea my needs were so different from some of my direct reports! I am working too hard in some areas which are unnecessary, and also expressing my needs for control more than team member’s would like. This has truly changed the way we interact, and my direct reports seem to be happier and more engaged.”

CPP has a registered trademark on FIRO-B which is the same company that has the rights to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). 

This article was originally posted in February, 2013 on People Insights.

How have you used FIRO-B with your leaders or teams? Share a story of effective results your team gained.  

Questions? Let’s connect. I would love to hear your success stories. Please send them to: hello@sarahscala.com or visit www.sarahscala.com

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