Understanding Motivation for More Effective Team Behavior

Posted 22 August 2019 by
Pam Valencia & Melissa Summer

Understanding personality type (like your MBTI personality type) helps you see how your mind is wired. It shows us how we like to get energized, take in informationmake decisions, and orient ourselves to the outer world.


Understanding interpersonal needs gives you insight into another aspect of your personality—what motivates your behavior in regard to how much interaction you want with others. And what type of interaction you want.


For example, we know that people who prefer Extraversion are energized by the outer world of people and things. They often brainstorm out loud, get energized from interacting with other people and are among the first to raise their hands in meeting.


But what if the same person that prefers Extraversion has low interpersonal needs?


How they express their Extraversion will “show up” differently compared to Extraverts who have higher interpersonal needs.


Interpersonal needs add another unique dimension to who we are and why we do the things we do.


And knowing about interpersonal needs can help one-to-one relationships as well as team dynamics.


Want to learn more about interpersonal needs? Check out this video:



Based on the research of Will Schutz, PhD, the FIRO-B instrument was created to assess interpersonal needs. The theory is that beyond our physiological needs (needs for food and safety, for example), we each have interpersonal needs—for Inclusion, Control, and Affection—that strongly motivate us.


Unlike MBTI personality type preferences (which, according to Jung are hardwired at birth), interpersonal needs are developed throughout our lifetime, based on our experiences, culture, values, and so on. As Schutz explains, everyone has the desire to express Inclusion, Control, and Affection, as well as to receive these from others.


These interpersonal needs are ranked low, medium, or high depending on the strength of the desire to get them met. Think about interpersonal needs like the need for certain clothing depending on your location. If you live in the mountains, you probably have a high need for jackets, warm socks and long pants.


However, a person living in the tropics probably has a much lower need for jackets, warm socks and long pants. As winter approaches, the person who lives in the mountains is going to work a lot harder to get the need for that warm clothing met, whereas the person in the tropics won’t be trying nearly as hard. They might want a light rain jacket, but could also do without. For each of the three interpersonal needs (Inclusion, Control and Affection), people have different strengths of desire to get that need met.


Knowing about interpersonal needs gives us a better sense of why we seek out or avoid certain situations, as well as why we seek to have those needs met.


What are the three interpersonal needs?



(called Involvement within the FIRO Business tool), is about the need to belong. The desire to be recognized, to be a part of the group, is Wanted Inclusion. It could be a work group, a book club, a family circle, a sports team (or a group that watches a particular sport), a volunteer group, or even an organization. The other side of this interpersonal need is Expressed Inclusion—the drive to include others, to decide who to include. For some, Inclusion is not a strong motivating factor, while for others it is very important.



(called Influence within the FIRO Business tool) is another interpersonal need that may motivate an individual’s behavior. How important is it to you to be in charge or to not be “managed” in any way? The need to lead, influence, provide structure, make the decisions is Expressed Control.


Wanted Control is about how much you want others to lead, provide structure, set the goals, etc. Is your motivation to have this interpersonal need met low, medium, or high in either dimension? Think about how often you are “driven” to take charge. If you find yourself constantly wanting to be in charge, is it because you feel others are incompetent or because you want to drive the direction? Do you feel that others in a leadership role are there to provide you with structure and direction, or that they should trust you to fulfill your role the way you want to? For some, it may be difficult to delegate effectively, or they may overvalue competence (not valuing a learning experience, but instead seeing a mistake as a disaster). For others, the strong need for independence and freedom from responsibility may limit their effectiveness in relationships.



(called Connection within the FIRO Business Tool), is about one-to-one relationships and the emotional ties and warm connections between people. Wanted Affection has to do with how much warmth and closeness you want in relationships. Think about how often you disclose your feelings to individuals and how willing you are to listen to theirs. How important is it for you to be liked by others? How many individuals are you close to, and how would you define close? Do you have a few deeper relationships or do you consider everyone you meet (get acquainted with) a friend? 


Expressed Affection is about how willing you are to develop a close and warm connection with another person. How often do you act in ways that encourage closeness to another? Because of differences in this interpersonal need, some people may be perceived as unapproachable, while others may be disappointed in a relationship because the other person doesn’t accept the depth and intensity that they want and need. If we are seeking to have our interpersonal needs met and our current circumstances (work or home, for example) don’t meet them, we will actively seek to get these needs met in other ways.


Like most people, throughout my life I have seen relationships that work and others that don’t. When they don’t work, often it’s because people’s interpersonal needs are not being met or they are in conflict. For example, if someone has High Expressed Control and Low Wanted Control and is working with someone who has the same interpersonal need, someone is not going to get to express control at the level he or she wants. At the same time, one person may be expressing control much more than the other person wants. The challenge is when people don’t understand what is motivating their behavior or the behavior of another person. Why is this important? Seeking to understand that motivation can assist an individual in choosing more effective behavior.


Team Evaluation with Interpersonal Needs


Let’s take a look at two sets of interpersonal needs on the same team.
One person (A) has Inclusion scores of High Expressed and High Wanted. Another person on the team (B) has Low Expressed and Low Wanted Inclusion. The impression created may be that person A (High Expressed Inclusion) is engaging, connected, humorous, and social, while person B (Low Expressed Inclusion) comes across as private, selective, quiet, and difficult to know. Person A (High Wanted Inclusion) may be deeply affected by rejection , experience being away from the group as missing the action, and perceive lack of acknowledgement as negative. For Person B  (Low Wanted Inclusion), on the other hand, invitations to “join the group” may seem obligatory, being singled out may come across as negative, and collaboration may feel like a time waster. Why? The reason might be because those interpersonal needs want to be met on different levels. Low Expressed and Low Wanted Inclusion can also mean that the individual is highly selective about who he or she wants to meet this need. Person B may only want to be included in groups in which her supervisor is involved (for example). So if one person wants that inclusion and the other person considers it unnecessary, it may be a challenging work environment, especially if one person takes it personally.


The same can be said for the interpersonal need for Affection. Let’s look at High Expressed and High Wanted Affection. People with these scores are probably seen as open, optimistic, friendly, and providing praise and support to others. They may also be affected by the ending of working relationships with individuals when projects end. They tend to want people to share their feelings and to provide them with encouragement. If they feel sad or lonely, they are willing to share these feelings with others. They also may enjoy coaching and developing others and trying to please. If this individual is working with or in a relationship with someone who also has High Expressed and High Wanted Affection, both people are probably getting what they want (meeting that interpersonal need).


Even people with Medium Expressed and Medium Wanted Affection will probably get that need met within the relationship (remember, Affection is about the one-to-one connection). In contrast, people who have Low Expressed and Low Wanted Affection may be perceived as being task oriented, business focused, and private. They may forget about the human element and be perceived as cold and unapproachable, potentially limiting their effectiveness. They may not give reassurance to others because their own interpersonal needs are met without doing so. Also, they may perceive those reassurances from others as superficial and be annoyed by personal questions and emotional reactions. So the person with High Expressed and High Wanted Affection may spend time trying to overcome that person’s opinion about him or her, and may constantly try to cross the closeness boundary without much success.


Now let’s look at interaction in a group with Low Expressed and Low Wanted Control. There are three members on a team, all with the same interpersonal need for Control (or Influence). Their assessment results suggest that they don’t need the responsibility of being in charge to get this interpersonal need met; nor do they want others providing structure (or telling them what to do). The group overall may appear independent and maybe even rebellious at times. Their preference will be to do things their own way, at their own pace. Thus they may put extra effort into doing their work well so that they will be perceived as autonomous and self-reliant. The challenge for this group may be coordinating their efforts or stepping up into a leadership role when appropriate.

Want to learn about how to use the FIRO tool with your employees or teams? Learn more about FIRO Certification Programs