Keri has kindly sent us his latest paper on, fittingly, coaching and the pandemic,’ attached. Full of insight and richly referenced and theorised – a feast.
Coaching@Work magazine asked Bob to lead their annual conference with a tribute to David, whom Bob worked so closely with. Please find the video attached – thank you.
As many of you know, we lost David Megginson to a long-term illness last month. Here is what members of the CCG had to say about the impact of David upon our lives and practice.
We met first in 1991 when I was contemplating doing a PhD on mentoring. David was an obvious person to contact because of his pioneering work in mentoring and coaching. My first impression was of a very erudite person, full of charm, decency and generosity. We kept in touch and through the fledgling European Mentoring Centre worked together with others to develop the now EMCC. In 1999 and a PhD later, a job appeared at Sheffield Business School. I immediately contacted David. “Wow, if you come, we could start a Mentoring and Coaching Research Unit” he said – and we did with Paul Stokes. The three of us worked together to create the MSc in Coaching and Mentoring (the 2ndsuch course in the world) and we delivered it together in Switzerland and the UK. As a team we were in the same office for 10 years. Often, if one of us were struggling with something or was looking puzzled David would say “Coffee? You look like you need a good listening to!” Lunch was always an occasion if we were all together. It involved going somewhere interesting to eat and we had both serious and fun conversations. There was often much banter and laughter. David was a masters of conversation. Over the years we exchanged produce from our respective gardens and we discussed the delights of vegetable and fruit growing. David was a scholar, a scientist and artist, a poet, music lover and runner. He spoke truth to power with such elegance! Over the years my first impressions of him were confirmed – erudite, charming, decent and generous. He lives on in his work. His physical presence has left us but he lives in our hearts and minds. It was an honour and a privilege David!
His joy and energy…
Memories of the EMCC Bilbao conference: A brilliant and energetic dancer who could boogie with the best of them at last night conference discos, a keen barefoot runner who I had the privilege of enjoying some early morning runs, a mutual fan of foraging and mycology where we had fun taking turns to remember the latin names of the funghi in the evening meal’s risotto, glorying in the wonders of the field maple which mingled in the hedges of his plot of wildness and weeds.
His compassionate disruption…
Holding the coaching world to account, challenging it to look deeply into itself, not hide behind its sacred cows – I remember his playful session title ‘does contracting make us smaller?’ and have shared that quote many times, as well as ‘good mentors coach and good coaches mentor’.
There was always a twinkle in his eye, a feeling of mischief just below the surface, the joyous bow ties. He shared briefly of early ventures into Esalen, his love of Mentor in Odysseus and the swallow as his spirit guide. Perhaps he now too has taken the form of a swallow, and in the words of Homer, has flown up to perch on the roof beam of the smoke-darkened hall.
It will take a long time to process – I trust there will be some amazing celebrations- he was a polymath, a rare creature to grace the coaching world, which would not have been born without him.
I had the pleasure and privilege of being with David in many different settings, both formal and informal. He was always warm and encouraging, whilst offering new, often challenging perspectives.
I have many fond memories of our encounters in Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield and elsewhere. His legacy endures in my mind and heart .
I am very sad to hear that David passed away. I had a lovely relationship to him. Met him both in Copenhagen, where I invited him a number of years ago, I met him at Sheffield H. where I was invited to speak at a coaching research conference, and I met him at several conferences. He was British in the best version. And he was a fantastic inspirier for me and many others.
I have heard that he was not doing well for some years. From that knowledge, it has not been a total surprise. But it is always sad to me a good colleague, a humanist, and friend.
I am with his family and all who will miss him
Since that day when David was no longer able to join us at Arnos I often wondered how he was and thought how good it would be to see him again. When you asked me to speak yesterday, I mentioned his sharing; David always gave of himself and opened the way for you to do the same.
This morning as I was waking, David came into my thoughts, and I remembered chatting with him one day about poetry when he asked if I knew of Elizabeth Bishop’s work. I didn’t and he suggested I start with her poem, ‘One Art’, which was about losing things.
I was surprised that poem should come into my head because David only mentioned it in a passing comment, but it does seem strangely apt. At the start, the poem could seem quite light-hearted, but as we get into it we may feel the tension and the pain of loss.
Sometimes we might feel special in the company of someone because of, say, the position they hold, their status or fame. David allowed you to feel special about yourself without having to draw attention to himself. He met you as an equal with something to share.
David Megginson surfaced in my life in Sheffield in the mid-seventies as an educator working a modernising agenda within the Steel industry, where I was struggling to keep my head above water as a stripling OD and training practitioner, and felt immensely supported by him. At the same time, David was a strong voice in the CIPD locally and nationally. I gravitated towards Sheffield Poly as a student sitting at the feet of both David and Mike Pedler, who were massively influential in shaping my practice, encouraging my instinctively disruptive tendencies while counterbalancing that with a degree of institutional caution.
Thus fortified by these intensive formative infusions of David, it was not until around 2004 that he re-merged in my life as a contributor to my doctorate into creative OD practice, when I learned of his foundational leadership in the field of coaching and mentoring. When I expressed critical doubts as to the commercialisation of coaching and its appropriation, he immediately responded not with the discouragement you might expect from a founder but with vivid curiosity. He leapt at the opportunity to speak to Bristol University Management School where I was teaching, secure in the knowledge that his imprimatur would do much to solidify the emergence of a critical coaching voice in a geography beyond Sheffield Hallam, where critically and reflexivity were firmly embedded within the Coaching and Mentoring Unit which was shaped in his image and likeness.
From that point on, David became an unwavering contributor to the Critical Coaching Group (CCG) for ten years, until he could no longer travel. That the CCG has continued beyond his direct presence is a tribute to the generosity of soul that he gifted us, leaving us buoyed by the deep moral purpose that he ushered into our lives
I know you had a great relationship with David both academically and as a dear friend. My thoughts are with you. I hope all the words written are helping you us snd if course his family.
I loved Katherines swallow image and the freedom That evokes.
Here are my thoughts for David
My heartfelt thoughts to David’s family . David was renowned internationally for his contribution to the Coaching and Mentoring world and we were immensely privileged to have David as part of our Critical Coaching Group.
On a personal level he was an Inspiration to me in changing my career to a Coaching and Mentoring focus through his training and writings.
David had that unique gift that made you feel you mattered , always giving time to listen and ignite my thinking.
And David always had a sense of fun , he will be sadly missed as CCG not least for his sense of humour and penchant for natty Socks 🧦 🧦
I know David more by his presence at CCG than personally. I once shared a train with David home from one of the CCG meetings. He unwrapped his apples from his garden very carefully and ate them as we chatted. I was very struck by how calm and peaceful he was and he shared his Quaker practices with me. I’ve taken a lot of train journeys in my time, all over the world and had a lot of conversations, this one stands out as having the most impact and I often come back to it when I need a moment, a sense of peace and an idea of what’s waiting for me when I can let go of the busy-ness and ego of life. He was an extraordinary man in this.
I first met Dave in Dyson House, Sheffield, in 1978. He was in his running gear and for a year or so that was how we tended to meet – I was usually on my way to the weight room across the road – and I could recognise him more easily by his legs than the rest of him. Communication was mostly via sweaty grunts. When we did get a chance to chat, at a party, I was struck by how much we had in common and how imaginatively he responded to the everyday, and how much I wished I wasn’t about to leave Sheffield and people like him. As my career developed elsewhere and I began to explore training and development more deeply, Dave’s contributions were everywhere, always thoughtful, keen eyed and eared, original and human, keeping me in touch with a lot of intangibles that he understood so well that were nevertheless grounded in the grit of the city we had in common. They were the ones I chose to shape my work with managers – even in my spells in Hong Kong and Australia, because he asked better questions and was open to a more generous possibility of responses. As I became more active internationally, especially the US, it was a delight to realise that his was one of the names that would be frequently brought up in presentations and discussions as T & D struggled to find new identities in HRD and beyond and the new fields of mentoring and coaching took shape – by people from much more celebrated institutions than Sheffield City Poly/Hallam. And in England, working across boundaries with major companies and universities on corporate initiatives, I was always asked whether I knew him. I was delighted to be able to say yes, I’d learned a lot from him – but today I’m sad that it was far more than he’ll now ever know.
The word “Dignity” came to my mind when remembering David. A dictionary
definition of Dignity is “Nobleness or elevation of mind” which, for me,
captures a key aspect of the man.
I am delighted to announce that, following the successful pilot of the programme ‘Crafting my Coaching Story,’ that the Association for Coaching has agreed to host a second rendition of the same, beginning on 10th September 2021. The full details are as below.
The faculty for this programme is drawn almost exclusively from CCG members, including Daniel Doherty, Jen Gash, Chris Mabey, and Pippa Warin, supporting the estimable Julia Forster. The pilot was enjoyed by two of our number, who speak well of it. Please let me know if you know of anyone who might be interested in this by email at email@example.com, or if you simply want to know more about this.
The impetus behind this is to promote creative literacy among coaches. Sometimes the text that comes from our keyboards is all very worthy, and sometimes it reads as if drawn from a random buzzword generator. Let’s liven things up. There is little financial gain in this for the faculty; the rewards are rich, and largely non-monetary, including the learning gained from working together.
the uplifting news on this programme is that four of the original attendees on the pilot programme are returning for more of the same on this return programme. We must be doing something right here.
Sally Webber invites you to the following:
I’m helping organise some coaching for doctors as the move to high pressure jobs in the Emergency Department in hospital in Bath.I love coaching doctors as they’re all really bright, interested in learning and wanting to do the best job they can – which is tough at the moment!
Might be 20-25 of them who take up the offerWhich is:2 session x 60 minutes on Zoom / Teams, your preference, from mid August – end November (probably)Payment is £60 per session – so not great but not pro bono
This is a pilot for the hospital so we’ll expect to collect some feedback at the end from each client
If you are interested and have availablity can you email Sally Webber on firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know
I guess there must come a time in every twenty-first century network’s life when the need for a blog becomes an inevitability, and not only for fashionable reasons. Launching this CCG blog feels kind of grown-up somehow, but it also feels down-with-the-kids. What the creation of this blog does reflect is the fact that the horrors of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have driven the CCG from being an in-person gathering to a becoming an online phenomenon. I am at this point resisting the urge to post up a screenshot of all our tiled faces on Zoom, just to prove it is true. But it is.
I have to say that when lockdown descended on us in March 2020, I had to scrap all forward conference room bookings at our much loved Arnos Manor hotel, and ask booked speakers if they would mind doing their thing on line. This sudden switching of arrangements made me fearful, as I felt then that much of the value of our regular meetings lay in the opportunity to meet face-to-face, share chip sandwiches and flaccid salad, and munch over what provocations our visiting speakers had planted. I did not think that our members would take easily to this transition to a two-dimensional digital experience; nor did I think that the CCG would remain a priority on their minds, given all else that had been disrupted by the pandemic.
I need not have worried. Far from the need for us to gather together going away, it became apparent that in the face of all of the challenges posed to our personal and professional lives, the wish to to get huddle in any form remained as strong as ever. In fact the move to online, in liberating the CCG from the geographical constraints posed by being locked into the Bristol location, has allowed us to draw upon a far wider range of speakers from across the world. And has attracted in new members who are more than happy to become a part of our group, without having to commit to making the far-flung trip to the South West of England, which as we all know is a two-days stage-coach ride away from London. And a one day ride from Exeter.
At first, old stagers said that they were prepared to live with online presence as a somewhat second-best interim solution, while the lockdowns blew over and normal in-house services could resume. However, as our Zoom years have progressed, the nostalgic cries for a prelapsarian return to the container that is the Gallery Room have muted, replaced instead by an excitement at the new horizons online has revealed. For our new members who have known nothing else, then they have been happy enough with the online experience not only to sign-up for more of the same through to next year, but to invite their colleagues at similar career stages to come along too. I must say that it is most gratifying to learn that the culture of open inquiry and challenge while being supportive of each other has persisted into this new format.
I anticipate, then, that as we progress into 2021 and beyond, that we will move towards a hybrid configuration, where regular monthly meetings will be augmented by a number of in-person gatherings a year to allow us to breathe the same air once more, and merrily kick over coffee cups strewn across the open-U circle of rickety chairs. But meanwhile I am delighted at the uptake of speaker invites from all over the world – my, how I am resisting with all my might and main the temptation to use that much-abused term ‘global’- and look forward to a rich and relational year together.
So where does this blog fit in? Well, it is early days, but in addition to serving as a container for updates such as this current rambling, this blog also offers opportunities for the curating of offerings from members and speakers that they feel will be of interest to our members. These offerings are likely to be in written form, but could also be imagistic, in audio or video form, or free-form interpretative jazz. It is really up to you. Let me know if there is something you wish to post, great or small, and I will ensure that it gets up there. Looking forward to it. And welcome to the CCG Blog.
Inside the Executive Coaches’ Gulag: AD 2025
Two older greying men pace their grim prison exercise yard, each solid inch of their stiff yellow pyjama suits emblazoned with every acronym known to coaching man. In their long moments of boredom, they sit in their solitary cells, shouting out an acronym or two into the void, in the hope that someone might hear them. Hoping that those now empty three-letter mantras would somehow resonate. Resonate. That was a word they used to use a lot, ad nauseam, in their former illustrious lives. Now the only resonation they hear is the clank of their metal slop-out buckets on the cold stone floor.
As they walk, they break into desultory conversation – pursuing a well-trodden conversational lament as circular as their grooved perambulation, always clockwise, around the yard.
Brian: How has it ever come to this? I never thought it would come to this.
Michael: Me neither. But don’t you remember? Damned Hungarian Government started all of this back in 2021, with their Charlatans’ Law banning all talking therapies, including coaching, unless the practitioner were trained through a state institution and licenced by government.
Brian: Goddam Hungarian despots. But back then we shook our heads in faux pity, never thinking for one minute the Charlatans Law would spread like bush fire across the whole coaching planet.
Michael: First, they came for the Hungarians …
Brian: It’s true, they did … but it is hardly their fault, what happened next. We provoked all the western authorities by drawing attention to our attempts at coaching self-regulation. Which we boasted applied globally, enforced through our high-sounding Global Code of Ethics. Such hubris.
Michael: What fools we were. They took a look at our verbose ordinances and decided they didn’t even apply in own backyards, never mind on a planetary basis … they called our self-regulation the ‘Hypocrites Charter.’
Brian: They did. On top of which, once we were caught in the headlights, they started to add up just how much all of us were creaming off clients – not to mention how we were shilling gullible coaches through our training schools and supervision scams, which had become a major revenue stream.
Michael: Yep. Then they did the math and decided that they wanted a piece of our $25 billion dollar global pie
Brian: Not just a slice of the pie chart – they wanted to gobble up the whole damn thing … and that 2021 pandemic allowed governments to act with complete disregard for business opposition.
Michael: Truth …the more we protested, the harder they came down on us
Brian: We should never have stirred up the Chinese…
Michael: And those Russian coaching double agents blowing the whistle on us all.
Brian: I remember as if it were yesterday. Painful. The whole coaching circus came tumbling down. They rounded up us thought leaders first
Michael: Yep, bags over our heads…
Brian: Then the perp walk out of our colleges, in front of all of our fee-paying students
Michael: The shame of it.
Brian: Then the rendition, here, to this gulag in unmarked military planes … we could be anywhere.
Michael: Hmm. And after they had corralled all of us thought leaders, they came for the business school professors. Wiped the smug smile off their faces.
Brian: They sure did, having smelled our blood first. They did quite a number of the professors under violation of the rushed-through Global Anti Confirmative Bias Law, the GACBL.
Michael: Then they took over the business schools’ chrome and glass buildings, installing apparatchiks who would do their pedagogic bidding. Allowing them to practice in a world where all that is to be known about coaching is now fixed – and therefore would never need researching again.
Brian: Yep. Then they counted up the coaching books and found there were as many authors as coaches, and toxic plagiarism was evident across the piece.
Michael: So, they invaded the libraries and bulldozed the lot, shut down whole categories of e-books, banished off social media and even the dark web.
Brian: And at the same time, they closely scrutinised our claims on LinkedIn for the number of hours of executive coaching we had done. How I lived to rue all that braggadocio.
Michael: Me too. I claimed 10,000 hours which meant 416 days which felt not so bad … but then they factorised that quantum by the number of letters after our names; which pushed me to 5,000 days, or 13 years.
Brian: 13 years. `Hmm. Same me. I wish we hadn’t copied each other’s claims so blindly.
Michael: Mimetic isomorphism?
Brian: Shush, for god’s sake. You know we’re not allowed jargon anymore. The philistines’ eyes and ears are everywhere. But yes, we were forever trying to match and outdo each other.
Brian and Michael exhale a collective sigh, as they lean on the chain fence of the thought leaders’ yard, gaze absently towards a more densely populated yard; the yard designated for junior thought-follower coaches, from whence occasional squeals of laughter ring out amid improvised games of basketball.
Michael: Funny how the thought-followers are allowed to wear flowing gowns, isn’t it?
Brian: Well, they are mainly women. And they were handed down lesser sentences than us … they claimed mitigation on the grounds that they were just obeying the orders laid down in their elder and betters’ competency grids.
Michael: And in many ways they were simply doing that. Blindly following.
Brian: Funny that we only have two women thought leaders in our wing and they are given special privileges? Like the Excessive Empathy Extraction programme? The EEE?
Michael: I know. I know. And they are let off the compulsory weekly salsa classes
Brian: They are so humiliating, those salsa classes – where did the idea of that excruciating punishment come from anyway?
Michael: Well, it all started when some enlightened thought leader said there were many parallels between salsa, at which he claimed to be an expert, and coaching. So now we must practice it weekly, groin to groin.
Brian: The weekly grind. Just to prove the analogy doesn’t work.They don’t half rub it in.
Michael: Making us rub together? It ain’t easy.
Brian: Didn’t they use the same aversion therapy logic to deem that we have to suffer listening to free-form contemporary jazz through the corridor loud speakers 24 – 7? To prove that coaches need to know how to improvise?
Michael: They did. Though you might look closer to home on that one? Wasn’t it your business partner who drew the as-for-jazz, so-to-for-coaching read-across, in her book, ‘Blow your Coaching Trumpet’?
Brian: Yes, it’s true. Fair cop. Stupid parallel processing.
Michael: Did she ever withdraw the harassment charges, before you split?
Brian: Never had the time – she scarpered quick and took a job in mental health nursing.
Michael: Well, it is brutal, what they are putting us through…but it may just be that their re-programming regime is working on us, drip by drip…
Brian: You know, I think you may be right, reluctant though I am to admit it. I was awarded a Master of Correctional Competences by the warden last week, MCC. Felt good to be back among the prizes again – but of course I am not allowed to use the letters after my name. Not while inside anyway.
Michael: Lucky you. And I was given a level one GROW award – Global Repudiation of Orthodox Wellness programmes.
Brian: Well done – is that one of those twelve step things?
Michael: Yes!! And it feels so good to be back in the accreditation groove.
Brian: What is your supervisor like?
Michael: Awful — totally existential.
Brian: Oh no – I have one of the Lacanian ones. Much more libidinous.
Michael: Tell me more sometime. But hey, there goes the bell for lunch. That little Tibetan tinkle to goad us with echoes of a more symbolic life.
Brian: Groan. This diet of conference nibbles and warm white wine is playing hell with my inners
Michael: I know. But it’s the price we have to pay for years of freeloading at others expense.
Brian: Feels like it is going to be a long afternoon. All alone, scratching my blog on the cell wall.
Michael: Don’t get too doomy. It will serve well as your legacy, that blog will, for the next inmate to read and inwardly digest. He might even syndicate it for you.
The Charlatan’s Law
I was, to my great surprise, invited to the EMCC Global Conference last week, nestled in on Zoom among over 500 eager beaming others. My main reason for being there was to join a session on ‘Regulation,’ a choice which will come as no particular surprise to those that know me, as I have a number specific regulatory axes to sharpen with ‘professional’ bodies (or trade associations, as my wife Louise calls them.)
In order to get into that juicy conversation, I was prepared to patiently sit on my hands through an opening presentation on ‘departures in regulation in Hungary,’ unfairly expecting to have to endure a glorious tale of awakening and inclusion by the Hungarian government of the coaches among them, affording them licence and legitimation on a hitherto unprecedented basis – perhaps just to show the rest of us?
How wrong could I have been? Far from learning of the permissive issuing of licences to operate on a universal scale, I heard instead of an opposite trajectory. I heard of a shocking State Directive entitled ‘The Charlatan’s Law.’ This law stated that no-one other than those with state approved ‘talking therapy’ qualifications, gained though a recognised Hungarian university, could put any professional designation after their names save the state approved ones. Nor could they practice in any form, or run a coach training school under threat that they would inevitably be discovered. And the penalty for violating either of these injunctions against designation or practice? One year in prison. No grace period was permitted on the enacting of this law, and no discussion allowed.
As you might imagine, alarm bells rang throughout the coaching and therapeutic communities in Hungary, who were forced into all sorts of defensive manoeuvres to tackle this draconian move, some of which have proven marginally successful.
I am not writing here to go any further into this case study, compassionately though I feel for our Hungarian comrades . Amid all the sharp intakes of breath evoked by this saga, I was left hypothesising how it might be if, by some mighty global swing of a regulatory axe, all talking therapy were forbidden across the entire planet until they could prove their efficacy. The problem of charlatans proliferating through the pandemic and through digitisation would be dealt with in a heartbeat, as would the problematic task of deciding who is worthy and who is not. ‘Professional bodies’ and their parasitic adjunct colleges would exist no longer, unless they were rebuilt from the ground up on the soundest of theoretical bases, and taught and assessed by those who could be trusted to do the same, unencumbered by commercial imperatives. Underground coaching resistance cells might form, tunnels dug, pamphlets stuck under doors, secretive one-on-ones in public toilet blocks …
The possibilities continue to intrigue me. I day-dream of LinkedIn coaching communities being subject to such scorched-earth treatment. Whole categories of practice stripped bare of most of their content, obliterated at a stroke. All post-nominals strung after their name now gone. Only birth names visible, now that the professionalising tide has gone out, with many left shivering-cold and exposed, leaving only those with legitimate doctoral and masters designations, and other stringent practice requirements standing proudly on the beach, while others retreat, cowering with fear.
Where would prospective clients turn from now on, if indeed they were inclined to turn anywhere at all? Would clients themselves be imprisoned for being so perverse as to be prepared to pay for help? How would coaches explain this draconian turn to themselves and to their families, with all work gone and all those years of investment in training courses and supervisions proven utterly worthless? What if family and friends said to these beleaguered souls, ‘I told you, I told you .. I saw this coming along but you wouldn’t listen.’
Might world governments set up gulag prisons for transgressive executive coaches, where they would be required to stamp number plates rather than CPD certificates? Would these sorry souls be stopped from tapping out professional acronyms to each other on the prison pipework? Might families smuggle in the URLs of self-improvement Youtube sites, or even microchipped competency frameworks? Would we find, in the face of all this, that the culture of the prisoners association slumps from aspirations towards community actualisation to the bottom end of the hierarchy of needs in about three days flat, as they each scramble to gain purchase on the last scrap of stale crust?
Time to stop, but this sad volte-passe has exercised me mightly, not least in reminding me how fragile the whole stage-set of coaching practice is. Oh, and I met a celebrity coach who is a self-proclaimed millionaire.
The coach as a fellow human companion
I know we are really looking forward to our virtual session with Reinhart. His name has been on our lips on and off for the past few years – it will be marvellous to have him among us to disabuse us – probably – of all we thought we knew.
Reinhart has asked me to share ahead of time this paper of his … intriguingly entitled, ‘the coach as fellow human companion.’