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David McQueen – Motivation, Mentoring and Marvellous McQueen! – PP91

The topic of the week is David McQueen – Motivation, Mentoring and Marvellous McQueen!


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Kevin spoke to David McQueen this week in an inspirational interview.

David is a businessman, international speaker and coach. He has worked with blue chip clients in the corporate sector as well as organizations in the third and public sector. He is also a TED Fellow on account of his participation at TED Global in Arusha in 2007 and has spoken at TEDx Surrey and TEDx Orinda. David also loves to work with a select number of startups each year to help them navigate the first steps into taking their business from idea to working business.

David and his wife run Magnificent Generation, a company which delivers programmes on leadership, learning and life skills to students and teachers. It operates mainly in the UK but has been involved in a number of initiatives and programmes in the Middle East, Africa and North America. Magnificent Generation focusses on three core strands:


  1. Leadership
  2. Learning Skills
  3. Life Skills


For the past 15 years, David has been getting students and teachers to think about what they can do together to get their students to be the best they can be.

The catalyst for this development came from David’s work with students in the community who struggled at school. This started mainly with African and Caribbean students but then spread more widely. This involved tutoring and weekend classes alongside aspects like helping students with work experience and their C.V.s. David realised he loved doing this for a ‘hobby’ but realised he could move to doing it full time. So be began going into schools to deliver motivational speeches around leadership. This led to work with teachers formulating evidence-based materials and techniques based on what worked.

David’s own school experience was of what he calls ‘quite robust leadership’. His head of year was Pivotal Podcast guest, Dr. Tim O’Brien, and his headteacher was Christine Gilbert, former head of Ofsted. So he learned a lot from his own schooling and his father ran schools as well which provided a model of how to turn children around.

What style of presentation does David use in school?

This differs according to the needs of the audience. With students re-sitting GCSEs, for example, David ‘keeps it real’ by being energetic and very practical. He likes to break the session into three steps the students can actually take away and do. For example:

  1. Make sure you are surrounding yourself with friends who are invested in your success
  2. Make sure you read around the subject your are studying – you may not like the subject now but you are learning how to problem-solve now which will take you through the rest of your life
  3. Concentrate on time management and working with teachers so you can plan things really well

David uses humour and references to popular culture to ensure he can connect to the audience as effectively as possible.


In workshop sessions, however, David still uses humour but likes to make it a lot more grounded and practical.

What is there from business leadership which can be transferred to educational leadership?

For leadership to be effective it’s got to be honest

David believes that everyone has a different leadership style but it has to be honest. He has worked with many teachers who find it difficult to speak to colleagues or senior leadership teams but are great with their classes. He also points out that leadership in schools doesn’t always follow a title – teachers can be called on to lead in many different ways and in many different situations.

David also takes lessons from education back into his work with businesses. A lot of businesses don’t realise that teachers work 70 hour weeks and get paid less than they do but are still often working with million-pound budgets and in a complex web of stakeholder relationships.

So leadership is the same in many ways in education and business and comes down to 3 key things:

  1. Having a vision about where you want to go
  2. How are you going to get people on board to make sure they can follow through on that vision
  3. How are you going to demonstrate that you are going to steer that vision to where you want to go

This is also true for prefects, students leaders, mentors, counsellors etc.


What are the practical skills of a great mentor?

A good mentor recognises they are there to elevate the mentee

A bad mentor will think that it’s all about them and their ego. Also, whether formal or informal, good mentoring should have some defined outcomes for the person being mentored.

David has a programme called Young Leaders which is partly concerned with peer mentorship. This covers areas like:

  • How to diffuse an argument
  • How to encourage someone to study using your own story as an example
  • How to handle your own behaviour when you have been told off by a teacher

Ask better questions

This is something David always stresses in schools. You might get a poor answer because you have asked a poor question. In leadership, it’s also important to ask yourself good questions about what you are doing and why – how does what I am doing day-to-day make me a better teacher or leader?

This can also mean you can ask fewer but better questions.

How do you build trust and rapport with students who already have good cause to mistrust adults?

With a large group, David walks amongst the audience, shaking hands, bumping fists, sitting beside them on the floor asking questions. He talks about how he failed in his schooling and business but managed to turn it round. He talks about his experiences with children in PRUs or who have self-harmed but managed to overcome their difficulties. So he builds an intentional sense of rapport through stories and connecting with the learners.

How is the rapport sustained into the classroom and with the learners’ own teachers?

David now uses workbooks with activities and links to web materials. There is also a lot of content which is made available to teachers after sessions David also makes it clear to the students that he can joke and have banter with them in the sessions because he is not a teacher. However, all he and his colleagues are doing is reinforcing what their teachers have already told them. They are going to the same destination, they are just in a different car. To the teachers, David says that they know the students much better than he can. He goes through the principles of asking good questions and focuses on areas like revision. He stresses that teachers should not see him and his team as competitors, rather they should use their own style and think about how they engage with the students – they need to be their authentic selves.

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(Creative Commons Sound clip by Johnny Pixel Productions, Inc. –



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