Let’s play a little mind game, OK? I want you to close your eyes and imagine only the following. You have answered an ad for help wanted. The ad was intriguing, the pay they offered was very competitive, but they never said what the job entailed. When you arrive at the interview, the person you are introduced to escorts you into a room with just an overhead light, a desk and a desk chair. The top of the desk is covered with piles of papers and folders, just in stacks. Your instructions are simply to sort the piles. When you are done, you should have an idea what the job description should be. The person exits the room and closes the door.
As you look at the papers you realize that there are everything from recipes on cards, to accounts payable receipts, clipped newspaper articles and stuffed folders without labels. Here’s the one and only question I want you to answer. What is your instinctive methodology? In other words, do you start to make piles of all like items, a pile of recipes, a pile of folders, and a pile of newspaper clippings? Or do you start to look at each piece and begin to put the puzzle together as they seem to relate?
Know the answer? Good. Then please read on.
There is no correct answer, by the way. If it seemed natural to you that you begin putting the like items in separate piles to begin the first phase of the task, you are most likely what is referred to as a “Container”. If your initial impulse is to start piecing the puzzle together with investigating each piece of paper, you are referred to as an “Expander”. What’s important here is that you need both Expanders and Containers to run a business.
The Containers are your organized, task oriented employees. They implement the ideas and plans of the Expanders. If you just have idea people, but no one to implement the ideas, you have creative chaos. If you only have those implementers, but no new ideas and strategies to be developed, then the ship runs smoothly, but it goes nowhere.
If you are a one man operation, it is of utmost importance that you understand whether you are mostly a Container or an Expander. If you recognize that you are an Expander, then you should begin to look for sub-contractors that will be your creative force. They come up with you ad campaigns, design your t-shirts, and handle your social media. If you are the creative force, then sub-contract a bookkeeper, someone to come in once a month to do your filing, someone else to maintain the premises, so that your best energies are spent doing what you do best.
If you are now trying to expand your internal staff, this is even a more urgent exercise. Take the staff you currently have and put them through this same scenario. Let them tell you who they are, don’t just use your judgement of them from what you’ve seen so far. Once you’ve identified the number of Expanders and Containers you have on staff, you have a better idea what to look for when adding to the team. Maybe you have a position open that you recognize will need an Expander, but you already have too many Expanders on staff. It’s time to move your people around. Put the creative force behind the idea pool and the implementers in the “get it done” pool. Now what position do you have open?
It’s all about the balance. Consider it “Business Yin and Yang”.