Measuring the behaviors of successful, inclusive leaders with the FIRO-B tool

Posted 10 February 2023 by
Author Vanessa Bradford

5 min. read

At work, inclusion and better performance happen when leaders make a point to ensure their employees truly feel heard and respected. In a webinar about this very topic, The Myers-Briggs Company’s Dr. Martin Boult discussed the intricacies of inclusion and what it takes to develop an inclusive company culture. It’s especially important for HR professionals, leadership consultants, and executive coaches to watch because it explores root causes and research behind the interpersonal behaviors that drive inclusion.

In the first blog of the webinar recap, we learned that the interpersonal behaviors of managers reveal whether employees feel included in the workplace. Thanks to research from psychologist William Schutz, we know that these interpersonal behaviors are tied to three basic needs that every person has at some level: 

  1. Inclusion: the need to belong
  2. Control: the need for influence
  3. Affection: the need for connection 

Through this lens, Schutz identified two kinds of interpersonal behaviors that leaders should consider: Expressed behaviors (how we tend to behave toward others) and Wanted behaviors (how we expect others to behave toward us). Expressed and Wanted behaviors differ from person to person because we all experience those three needs (Inclusion, Control, Affection) differently. Here are some helpful explanations:

Expressed Inclusion: The extent you go out of your way to get people to participate in something

Wanted Inclusion: How much you expect others to involve you in what they’re doing

Expressed Control: The extent to which you want to influence people, situations, and outcomes

Wanted Control: The level of Control and direction you hope to get (or not get) from others

Expressed Affection: The extent to which you try to connect with and show warmth to others

Wanted Affection: How much you expect others to try to connect with and show warmth to you

Another way to visualize this is to think of Expressed behaviors like water from a faucet. Depending on our thirst level (a.k.a. our need) we can adjust the faucet to pour out only as much water as we’re comfortable drinking. Likewise, think of Wanted behaviors like the vessel. 

Depending on how much Inclusion, Control, or Affection we expect from others, we may carry around a small glass or a large bucket – or something in between. Problems (like lack of inclusion) arise when we’re unaware and misaligned on how much water to pour for others and the size of their vessel. To hear Dr. Boult further dissect this helpful analogy, watch the webinar. 

The FIRO-B measures how leaders click or clash with their teams

Fortunately, the nuances of these interpersonal behaviors can be measured in an objective way. With the FIRO-B® (FIRO) framework, HR professionals and leadership consultants or coaches can assess where a person falls on the spectrum of high to low Expressed Inclusion:

Similar spectrums are also measured for Control and Affection. For now, we’ll focus on Inclusion because the FIRO assessment sheds a significant amount of light on perceived Inclusion in the workplace. And from our research, we know that Inclusion is a driver of collaboration and success. In fact, the assessment is especially useful when the entire team gets to take it. 

Interestingly, we found that employees who have high Expressed Inclusion rated their manager as not very inclusive. At the other end of the spectrum, employees who have low Expressed Inclusion rated their manager as very inclusive. This information is essential because it encourages leaders to consider how their behaviors demonstrate the level of Inclusion that make sense for their unique team dynamic. 

Case study: Increased inclusion and collaboration on executive team

During the webinar, Dr. Boult shared a case study about his leadership development work with a company in Asia Pacific. The CEO reached out to Dr. Boult because the five-person executive team had some trouble following through and taking ownership of their decisions. In addition, the two most recently appointed executives didn’t appear to be as confident or interactive with their colleagues. The CEO asked The Myers-Briggs Company to help increase inclusion and collaboration among these leaders.

Over the course of several months, Dr. Boult led the team through a number of developmental workshops and leadership resources. One such resource was the FIRO-B assessment. All five executives took the assessment and received their ratings for Expressed and Wanted interpersonal behaviors. This provided some eye-opening information about why the team had so many challenges. Ultimately, the leaders learned to adapt their behaviors in ways that encouraged feedback, addressed gaps in accountability, and increased inclusion. You can watch the webinar for the full case study recap. 

By looking at nuanced interpersonal behaviors through an objective analysis, the FIRO-B assessment unlocks an awareness that helps people adjust interpersonal behaviors and lead inclusive teams. To walk managers and leaders through this process, consider becoming a FIRO Certified Practitioner.

You May Also Be Interested in These FIRO-B Resources:



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