It’s FIRR the better

nighthawk309 —  May 15, 2013 — 4 Comments

KEYEdra Waterman, Director at the Hamilton East Public Library, says you need to learn to FIRR if you want to be a successful library leader.  What in the world is FIRR?  Some new librarian dance craze?  The librarian response to Gangnam Style?  Luckily not!

FIRR stands for fact, impact, respect, request.  Difficult conversations are exactly that–difficult.  The FIRR method gives you a structure and approach to tactfully and efficiently frame conversations that have the potential to be a challenge.  Let’s break it down.  This example deals with an employee taking excessively long breaks.

Fact: State what you see (“You’ve been taking close to 90 minute lunches for the last three days”).  This would be something that could be observed by others around the person.  As a fact, it should be something that’s not open to debate and helps to separate emotion from the conversation.

Impact:  State how it impacts the team or organization (“When you are gone longer than the allocated 60 minute break, it is hard to keep the desk staffed”).  Stating the impact of the fact should help to make the problem appear more real to the individual.  Keep the impact statement focused and realistic.

Respect:  State you respect or understand the challenge (“I know it’s hard to get back from lunch when the weather is so nice, I sometimes get caught up in a good book too”).  This statement helps to make a personal connection with the person and lets them know you can relate.

Request:  State the request or what you’d like to see from them (“I need you to stick to 60 minutes for the your meal breaks or we’ll need to revisit this again”).  Make sure this request is clearly stated and measurable.  Something like, “I need you to get better about this,” is too vague.  Be specific with your request so it is clear to the individual.  Make sure you actively monitor the issue and follow up as needed to get things fully resolved.

This is an approach that you’ll want to practice in advance.  Lay out the conversation as you’d like it unfold and stay steady in your delivery.  Some people may attempt to divert your course but keep true to your message and intent.

Learn to FIRR and you’ll take your leadership and management skills to new heights!

(A big thanks to the Michigan Library Association for offering the Leadership and Management Success workshop and for inviting Edra to present!)



Matt Church is the library director at the Berkley Public Library (Berkley, MI). He was previously associate director at the Baldwin Public Library (Birmingham, MI). He's all about libraries, Tom Waits, coffee, trekking and family adventures.

4 responses to It’s FIRR the better


    Heard a very similar approach at the LOM’s Beginning Workshop today. The focus was on delivering facts and the impact of those facts on the institution.


      Glad that word is getting out! Look forward to hearing more about the LOM’s Beginning Workshop–impressive lineup of speakers.


    Be careful with the “respect” stage. In the example given, maybe the employee is late because he’s avoiding a certain co-worker or customer, or maybe he really hates his job and can’t stand the thought of returning for the afternoon. If this is the case, saying “I understand” when you plainly don’t and haven’t tried to is just going to be annoying.

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