order from chaos

Making Order From Chaos – Understanding the Roles of Containers and Expanders on Your Team

It’s interesting how the universe works. This morning as I was watching the local news, and heard that several people have mysteriously died recently in the Dominican Republic – one of which was Barbara Corcoran’s brother.


If that name doesn’t ring a bell, she’s been one of the more prominent sharks on Shark Tank over the years.

As I was learning more about the loss of her brother, I ran across this tweet:

She goes on to talk about this further in her post on LinkedIn: There are Only Two Kinds of People

What’s ironic is that this is something that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit recently.

The Study of People Using Assessments

In my studies over the years regarding human and organizational behavior, I’ve come to appreciate personality tests. And one thing I’ve come to realize is that there are all kinds of ways to explain how a person ticks.

Some use academic means to assess the subject (Reiss Motivation Profile) while others are more widely used simply because they’re more well known and the information seems easier to convey (Myers-Briggs, DISC).

Up until recently, I’ve mainly used variations of the DISC profile to understand where people are coming from. Heck, I know the model so well that, when I’m waiting out in public, I’ll simply pass the time watching people and guessing their personality based on their personal style and how they’re interacting with others.

Here’s the kicker: most personality tests such as DISC are great if you’re checking to see how people react to a certain situation. I can tell what a person’s primary “personality” by how they respond to tasks and people.

If they’re given a task, will they try to do it or pass it off? Likewise, if they’re around others, will they try to be friends with them all or will they chill with a select group that they know well?

However, if you really want to know a person, you need to know what their Why is. Why do they approach certain situations in certain ways? This is what the Reiss Motivation Profile can help us with.

Instead of saying “they act this way around people/tasks” it instead helps us understand  “this is Why they act this way around people/tasks”.

Containers vs Expanders: Order vs Chaos

In conversing with upcoming guest of the AoL Podcast, Andy Dix, about Reiss Profile assessment, I’ve come to a realization. There are people who thrive in chaos and there are those who thrive with order.

Based on the results of my Reiss assessment, I like to think I’m somewhere in the middle. I like to make connections in chaos and help others apply that knowledge to their lives and/or business.

But I’m definitely more on the order side of things than the chaos side.

In other words, I’m more of a Container than an Expander.


Containers are detail oriented, like to keep on top of things, and like to create systems.

Expanders love ideas and action, thrive in chaos, and are 100% all out all the time.

Leveraging this Knowledge as a Leader

Generally speaking birds of a feather, flock together. Containers will naturally gravitate towards other Containers. Expanders will group with other Expanders.

Why?


Well, it’s human nature to see others from our own perspective.

Truth is, if let alone in the workplace, these individuals have the potential to drive each other crazy if made to work together without proper leadership. Containers might think Expanders are careless. Expanders might start believing that Containers aren’t moving forward fast enough.

If you compare them side by side, you might be right.

But as we’ve found out, they’re not the same. We’re comparing apples and oranges. So to avoid that frustration on your team and network, let’s tie this all together.

The Expander Leader

Let’s say that you’re an Expander – you’re constantly taking action. If you’re not making waves and meeting new people, you’re not happy.

That’s great and all, but if all your doing is planting seeds… who’s harvesting them? If all you’re doing is making the meal, who’s cleaning things up?

That’s where the Container comes in. Containers can make sense of the work you’re doing. They can help you be more efficient. And they can clean up after you if needed.

These are the types of individuals you’d want as part of your advisory team – your inner circle.

However, that being the case, you also need other Expanders. You can’t do all the things that need to be done in the field. So having other Expanders around will allow you to take more territory and explore new opportunities twice as fast.

The Container Leader

Likewise, if you’re a Container like myself, you’ll want at least one or two inner circle members to be Expanders.

Why?

If all you have is a group of Containers trying to make sense of things, you might get stuck in a loop of improvement. You’ll overthink things more than you need to.

With the addition of Expanders on your team, you can turn to them and ask “Hey, can you take this idea out to the market and see if this is something people want?”. Or, you can ask them “Hey, who do you know that could help us with…?”.

Because they love taking action, they’ll either find out the information themselves or, better yet, share the task with other Expanders in your network.

Action Steps

So to me, it’s fairly understandable why Barbara is so adamant about this topic. When paired together, Containers and Expanders can do amazing things!

With this knowledge, you can now determine whether you’re a Container or an Expander.

Then, it might be good to do an inventory of your team. What skill sets do your team members currently have? Which do you need?

Is your organization currently lead by Expanders? Then I’d imagine you need some Containers to make sense of things. There’s a good chance you’re making quite a lot of waves!

Is your startup made up of Containers? You’ll need to find some Expanders. You’ll naturally want to work on the product or service, but you need those Expanders to test it out in the market and get that feedback you need to make your company more relative to the outside world.

Either way you look at it, find and leverage those that compliment yourself.

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