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.