See how FIRO is used to improve team alignment

The Instituto de Liderazgo (IDL) is a boutique leadership consultancy firm based in Madrid, Spain. It is also responsible for delivering qualifying training in world-acclaimed psychometric tools such as the FIRO® and MBTI® assessments, and is an official OPP Alliance Partner.

IDL staff

IDL’s team of facilitators specialises in providing development experiences that help leaders and teams understand their personal style, and apply this learning to improve individual and organisational performance.

IDL’s consultants typically work with individuals or teams that are underperforming, or who simply want to turn their output from just okay to really great. Pedro Gioya Rivero, one of the partners at IDL, comments that customers often come to them with problems that can be addressed using an understanding of personality and relationships.

Pedro argues that almost any teamworking issue usually boils down to a common set of problems. “We see five typical underlying issues,” he explains. “We summarise these as team alignment, interpersonal conflict, trust and control, risk-taking and networking.” To address these issues, we need to encourage people to consider how they are seen by others, he argues.

“Our clients are looking for solutions,” adds Ramona Vicente, partner at IDL. “They have specific problems that are restricting their business. They love it when small solutions allow them to get better results – almost immediately.” The teams IDL works with often need a way of seeing the team tensions that are bubbling under the surface, so that they can remove prejudices, build confidence and make lasting improvements.

The IDL team is passionate about using the FIRO tool to help its clients address these common business issues. FIRO explores the unspoken drivers that can motivate a team, as well as the underlying tensions, inconsistent behaviours and mixed messages that can lead to mistrust and derailment.

FIRO identifies the unique drivers that motivate each of us in team relationships, comparing our outwardly expressed behaviours to the internal wishes and values that lie under the surface. The FIRO framework is based on three interpersonal needs: a need to be included and involved; a need for control and influence; and a need for affection and connection. The tool is usually a crucial element in a one- to two-day IDL team development programme, often alongside the MBTI, 16PF or 360 tools. Throughout the programme, IDL’s consultants constantly work within the context of the customer’s business goals.

“We include as many interactive exercises as we can,” comments Ramona. “For example, we get people to stand in a formation that mirrors their FIRO scores, and talk them through the differences that have been revealed. By physically standing in different positions, the team dynamics are immediately brought to life – and FIRO gives us a language to describe and then overcome those differences.”

For IDL, FIRO Inclusion is the most common core need area for the teams they work with. It explains many of the conflicting perceptions that lead to a lack of productivity: “Spanish culture expects one to appear very warm and friendly, so when someone is a bit different, people tend to conclude that they are aloof, cold or not interested in the rest of the team,” elaborates Pedro. “In fact, it may be that some people just don’t have a strong need to be included – interestingly, this low expressed need for Inclusion actually fits with the typical personality profile in the Spanish population, which surprises a lot of people! Combine this with the trend for high Wanted Affection amongst Spaniards, and you start to see how conflict arises.” Thus FIRO reveals information about relationships that is often not visible otherwise – and armed with this information, people begin to see specific ways to change their behaviour and collaborate more effectively.

Another archetypal problem is excessive control within a team. “People often think that their boss doesn’t trust them or allow them to try out new things,” says Pedro. When both the boss and the team members have a high need for Expressed Control, there will frequently be conflict of interest or clashes. IDL use the FIRO tool to get to the bottom of such clashes, and help people move forward. 

“The unique thing about the FIRO framework is that it gives people the opportunity to talk about very personal perspectives that other tools simply don’t offer,” says Pedro. “There’s quite a bit of ignorance among the everyday business person about which team tools are most useful, so when we present the concrete interpretations and immediate solutions of the FIRO tool, people find it incredibly powerful. We haven’t found a rival tool that works as well as FIRO, or that is able to work at the dual levels of the individual and team dimensions so effectively for our clients.”

FIRO is ideally placed to deal with issues of team alignment. In teams where people hold individual agendas about the team’s objectives and priorities, FIRO can be a revelation. “It helps people get at the fundamentals of what their team purpose should be, and how they can achieve it most effectively. 

Pedro and Ramona report that after a FIRO team intervention, people have a much more in-depth and lasting understanding of their work relationships, and how the behaviours within these relationships influence performance. “FIRO gives you simple words to access a strong, deep model. We teach participants a cycle of need–behaviour–perception, linking people’s underlying drivers to their actions, and illustrating how these actions are seen by others.” 

As a result, IDL’s consultants see concrete changes in the way colleagues interact and embrace their roles. For example, people begin to realise the value of networking as they look at their Inclusion needs; better delegation occurs for managers as they consider their need for Control; and managers realise they can make small changes in the way they connect with teams – talking more to their team and being less distant – to encourage team engagement and performance.

“Individuals and teams find it so useful to be able to make these links,” concludes Pedro. “They use the FIRO insight to recognise small changes they can make – to abandon or reinforce certain behaviours in order to be more effective in all their working relationships. They see a clear link between what they’ve learnt and what will change for them – and that clarity is the beauty of the FIRO framework.”