Can the MBTI® Instrument’s popularity be explained by the FIRO® Instrument?

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator MBTI® instrument is one of the most popular instruments in the world. It finds numerous applications – in team building, leader development, coaching. What is it that makes it so popular among trainers, facilitators and coaches? The MBTI® instrument is used so often for ‘Self Awareness’ but how then has it come to be an instrument of choice for team building? It is of course easy to use but is that all there is to it? Perhaps the answer lies, surprisingly, in the theoretical framework that underpins another very popular assessment, the FIRO-B® instrument.


 The FIRO-B® (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation – Behaviour) instrument is a personality assessment that measures how you typically behave towards other people and how you expect them to act towards you. Will Schutz, its author, developed the FIRO-B® instrument on the theory that beyond our survival needs – food, shelter and warmth – we each have unique interpersonal needs that motivate us. He called these needs Inclusion, Control and Affection.


  Inclusion, as the name suggests, is about how much you generally include people and how much attention, recognition and contact you want from others.  

 Control indicates how much influence and responsibility you want and how much you want others to lead and influence you.


 Affection indicates how warm and close you want to be with people and how close and warm you want others to be with you.


 In his elaboration of the theory, Will Schutz went further and stated, under his Postulate of Group Development, that the formation and development of two or more people into an interpersonal relation (that is, a group) always follows the same sequence…it begins with Inclusion, is followed by Control and finally by Affection.


The Inclusion phase of the group starts with the formation of the group. The Inclusion interactions allow members to discover the place within the group where they fit and how much they will invest in this group. It provides the space for members in the group to decide how much of themselves they wish to commit to the group. This phase is followed by the Control phase and then by the Affection phase. Through Control, individuals engage with the distribution of power and control and the tasks of the group. Finally in the Affection phase individuals in the group decide how emotionally integrated they wish to be with the group.



 It is interesting and ironical that theories are typically understood and articulated long after people instinctively understand these human processes. People understand, for instance, that for a team to form and deliver and bond (Inclusion, Control and Affection), the space first has to be created for Inclusion; a space that allows members of the team to come together and discover their commitment to each other, before getting down to the task. When such a space is not provided issues of commitment keep surfacing even after the task has begun.


 Those familiar with using the MBTI® instrument, or who have gone through the certification training, may now be able to recognise the activity of running an MBTI® workshop as one that promotes Inclusion.



 The MBTI® instrument provides a team a platform for Inclusion.  Each person is able to say ‘yes’ to themselves and simultaneously to others by recognizing their preferences. This raises levels of tolerance for differences within the group. It helps individuals see themselves as equals who have unique contributions to make. They see how they will fit into the group. All of this helps them commit more of themselves to the group. The team bonds better and the tasks that follow are addressed with greater alignment and commitment.



 In our experience, the MBTI® instrument seems to do this not just for intact teams but for any group getting together for a purpose –  offsites, bootcamps, outdoor training, leadership development programmes and even one-on-one coaching engagements – all of them seem to get off on a better footing when kicked off with the MBTI® instrument.


 Is it any wonder that so many trainers and facilitators, including Patrick Lencioni (Five Dysfunctionalities of a Team), seem to prefer starting a team bonding activity with the MBTI® instrument? It not only offers self-awareness, it also promotes Inclusion. Now isn’t that a great way to get a group started?



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *