How Do You Decide to Take That Facilitation Job?

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Quite a few years ago, I presented a paper at a conference called “When to Take the Job”. I was trying to be more discerning about which client work to take on. This is true more than ever now. I have been passing on almost all the jobs that I have been asked to do including some pretty interesting ones. But in this period, I did come across a job that I  was really intrigued about. Yet, it had many elements which would say, “Do not take this job!” So why did I even consider proposing on it?

I realized that the topic that they were pondering was incredibly interesting to me. Again, not a reason to take it. In fact, a good reason not to take the job because I might not maintain neutrality! So, I had to ask myself again, “Why am I taking it?”

  • It was an opportunity to work with other colleagues in designing something fairly complex. We could have fun co-creating and learn from each other.
  • Complexity was right. Perhaps even more challenging than I had had in awhile. So juicy!
  • It would give me an opportunity to submit an interesting write-up when I next apply for IAF certification.
  • But more than anything, I realized I might have some unique value that I could bring to this job that the client couldn’t find elsewhere.

The last bullet point was probably the deciding moment when I realized that I would apply. Luckily, we did not get the job. I now realize in hindsight, it would have been too stressful to prepare in the time I had and still enjoy almost every moment of preparation. So maybe a new criteria to add: I can enjoy almost every moment of preparation.

Have fun with your job choices. Think carefully about whether this or any work will really meet your needs. Can you be successful? And if the circumstances are very challenging, what can you do to make it more likely to be successful?

Here is what I wrote in the earlier blog. I share a case study, criteria for deciding if I should take it, and how well the job met the criteria.

Case Study

Small manufacturing company with multiple retail outlets

This was a BIG job – It first involved a strategic planning retreat with a small group of the upper management. Then I was to assist the sales managers create separate strategic plans for each of about 12 retail outlet stores that aligned with the head office plan. All the senior leaders were men. The company president wanted to retire soon. I liked the causal, fun, outgoing tone of the leadership team. They had not planned to invite the technical information officer (IT guy) since he was not part of the leadership team. But, they accepted my suggestion to invite him as technology was likely a key piece of their plan. No one in the company had ever done strategic planning before. I took some time to educate them about what a facilitator could do and what budget was required. They accepted my fees and expenses. The person who interviewed me was new and keen to make a difference. He called me in May and we began the strategic planning first session in August. The sales manager planning began the following February.

Should I Take the Job?

Do you think I should take this job based on my recipe for success? What should I do to meet more of my criteria for success?

The Decision

This job met all of my criteria very well.

  1. Leisurely Timeframe: There was plenty of time to prepare and really make sure I knew what they needed.
  2. Cool Client: I liked how open the team was to learning about strategic planning.
  3. Complexity “Nervosity”: I am really comfortable with strategic planning but the multiple layers with upper management and then senior management was new to me at the time. So this job was going to stretch me.
  4. Supports Me Well: They were willing to pay my proposed fees. They later even asked me to do more and accepted my revised estimate without question. They responded to my questions promptly. When we worked with a larger group of sales managers, they had no problem with me bringing a co-facilitator. They found good space for the event based on what I told them I needed. I always felt well accepted by all the client leaders and staff members. Although they worked in a male dominated industry, they were respectful and treated me like one of them.
  5. Collaborative Effort: The fact that they were very receptive to learning and trying new things suggested they were keen to keep growing as a collaborative culture. They wanted the sales managers input into their plan and then to have them become more strategic. It was not a perfect model of collaboration but it showed their willingness to grow in this direction. Ideally they would have just done one plan involving the sales managers earlier but they were not quite ready for that.

What Would You Do?

Would you take this job? If you take this job, what would you do to downsize some of the risks and make it more rewarding for you?

When I wrote this blog originally, I had not yet delivered the IAF session on this same topic. But the 36 participants really opened my eyes to some other potential components of success when thinking about whether to take a job or not. New key ones that really appeal to me were whether the job used my full range of experience and skills, and whether it provided them and me with value. A final component which I think is worth considering is the autonomy. When you are the facilitator, internal or external, it really helps for you to feel that your judgement combined with their input around designing a good process will be respected by the client.

Here is a photo of the sticky wall that shows all the additional components of success that the participants came up as their “recipe for choosing our best work” with in addition to the ones that I initially gave them as important to me.

I would love to hear from you. What would you add to the equation?


Click here or on the banner below, enter your email, and I’ll provide you with the 5-part formula worksheet I gave out at this session.


Here is that original blog:


Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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