The Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation™ (FIRO®) assessment is designed to help us understand our interpersonal needs.

It explores how we interact with others. As an individual, a team member, or a leader. William Schutz, Ph.D., developed this instrument based on the theory that beyond our survival needs – food, shelter, and warmth – we each have unique interpersonal needs that strongly motivate us (read an overview here). How we express our needs refers to the initiation of behaviors we demonstrate toward others. Whereas, our wanted needs refers to the extent to which we want those behaviors exhibited toward us.

In particular, these needs are focused on:

  • Inclusion/Involvement: Indicates how much you generally include other people in your life and how much attention, contact, and recognition you want from others.
  • Control/Influence: Shows how much influence and responsibility you want and how much you want others to lead and influence you.
  • Affection/Connection: Expresses how close and warm you are with others and how close and warm you want others to be with you in one-to-one relationships.

Furthermore, our individual FIRO scores can predict which team roles we are likely to play.

According to FIRO theory, each of us plays roles in teams depending on our own needs in relation to the interpersonal needs of other team members. Most of us will play at least one, and often more than one team role. I’ve definitely seen myself play different roles, some of which I prefer over others.

For instance, if you search “team roles” in books on Amazon, there are over 1,000 results. Experts on team roles, Eugene Schnell & Allen Hammer, are a popular choice on this topic. They identify team roles as follows:

1. Clarifier:

Presents issues or solutions for clarification, summarizes the discussion, introduces new members to the team, keeps team members up to date, and provides the group with facts and data.

2. Tension-Reducer:

Helps move the team along by joking or clowning at appropriate moments, redirects the group at tense moments, and builds on common interests in the group.

3. Individualist:

Is not an active team player, sees meetings as unnecessary or distracting, may work on other tasks or hold side conversations during meetings, and may not follow through or cooperate with group decisions.

4. Director:

Pushes for action and decision-making, may interrupt others or monopolize the ‘air-time’ in meetings, maybe unrealistically optimistic about what can be accomplished.

5. Questioner:

Seeks orientation, clarification, and is a constructive critic of the team, may use questions to postpone closure or decisions.

6. Rebel:

Struggles to establish a position within the group, may criticize others, challenges the status quo, may refuse to comply with group decisions, provides alternative ideas but may have difficulty with follow-through.

7. Encourager:

Builds the ego or status of others, is friendly, responsive, warm, diplomatic, and may sacrifice the truth to maintain good relationships.

8. Listener:

Maintains a participatory attitude, and shows interest through receptive facial and body expressions.

9. Cautioner:

Expresses concern about the direction of the group, relays doubts about the success of initiatives planned and shows reluctance to get swept up in group energy, provides a careful analysis of potential problems, may play devil’s advocate.

10. Initiator:

Suggests procedures or problems as discussion topics, proposes alternative solutions, is the “idea person,” actively encourages others to share in discussions.

11. Energizer:

Urges the team toward decision-making, insists on covering the agenda, and prods the team into action.

12. Opinion-Giver:

States a belief or opinion on all problems and issues, offers predictions based on past experiences, works independently from the group and does not try to become part of the leaders’ inner circle.

13. Harmonizer:

Agrees with the group, reconciles opposing positions, understands, compiles, and accepts.

14. Consensus-Tester:

Checks for agreement, brings closure to discussions, confronts, unacknowledged feelings in the group, and wants to build a close-knit, powerful team.

15. Taskmaster:

Tries to keep the group focused on its central purpose and required outcomes, ignores social chitchat, believes that the team members do not have to like each other to do the job, and reminds the group that this is a business, not a family.

By understanding the role you play in any group dynamic, the more you can flex and adapt.

Going through this exercise as a team can foster openness and improve overall team collaboration. Sometimes we get stuck being something we’d prefer not to be just to fill a void. When you end up doing that over time and it’s outside your preference, you can become exhausted and unfulfilled. Watch for that tendency and learn more about how you can identify these triggers to manage stress.

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