Makhotso Mabote is the founder and CEO of personal and professional development coaching practice Heartwork ZA. DW Fastrack caught up with her about all things Makhotso and the coaching industry in a South African context.
Growing up Makhotso
I am a Sowetan with a global heart, from Dobsonville to the world! Growing up, I was always very curious and creative. I’d always wonder about the world, but it was always internal. I found that being alone and in my own world was my favourite place to be, it was a wondrous place where I could spend hours on end. I loved music and wrote poetry (even though I wasn’t that great at it). I loved making arts and crafts and would spend endless hours making bead bracelets and paintings that I’d keep in my room for my enjoyment.
What did you want to become growing up?
I was quite shy and reserved as a child. As a result, I developed this keen interest in observing people. I was always fascinated by individual behaviour and why people did what they did. When I was younger I believed that being a psychiatrist was the best way for me to explore this keen interest in people. By the time I had reached the latter part of my high school career and needed to make a final decision about my degree choices, this desire had changed towards Psychology. I felt like the Psychology path was more aligned with my personality and temperament, so that is what I ended up enrolling for in university along with Industrial Psychology.
Do you think the 15y/o Makhotso would be surprised that you do what you do?
I believe she would be pleasantly surprised. With a deep love for Psychology, helping and supporting people in becoming the best versions of themselves, understanding the human mind and behaviour, she would be extremely pleased to know that this type of deeply fulfilling work exists. Particularly outside of what she believed was possible back then, which was very limited. At the time, life coaching in its current format didn’t exist, especially in South Africa. So, I believe she would be elated to know that a whole new world opened up for her to do work that she loves and still makes an impact.
When did you realise you’ve always been Makhotso the talent nurturer, a healer and people enthusiast?
I’ve always been heart led in my work, which isn’t always a welcome trait in the world of work where issues are deemed to be either black or white. My sensitivity towards the challenges that people encountered in the workplace was also an aspect that undoubtedly highlighted my desire to be able to help beyond what was stated in organisational policies. I’ve always been service oriented and concerned with ensuring that people experience positive outcomes, whether it was during a service call during my many vacation work stints at various call centres and restaurants during university or supporting students facing personal challenges that were affecting their studies, during their studies.
My desire has always been to see people thrive and unlock their own personal brand of magic into the world. I can say without a doubt that on the occasions that this transpired, my heart experienced the greatest levels of joy. There truly is nothing quite like seeing someone excel in an area they once deemed impossible.
Do you feel coaching has truly taken off in South Africa?
Coaching in South Africa is definitely a burgeoning industry that I believe will continue to grow exponentially over the next few years. As individuals develop a greater level of awareness and understanding of the power of coaching, along with organisations seeing the value of having internal coaches consisting of leaders, managers or HR employees, the industry will continue to expand. There is still some confusion or lack of clarity regarding coaching as a function or the purpose of a life coach, however, individuals and organisations alike can attest to the benefits once they’ve undergone a coaching interaction.
What are some of the worst coaching myths you’ve heard?
There are several misconceptions about coaching such as “paying someone to tell you what you already know”. Whilst true, a coach is trained in the frameworks and processes of journeying with individuals to move them towards their goals and moving past the awareness stage of trying to create a change. It has been said that solutions cannot be found at the same level of consciousness at which the problem was created, and this is where the significance of coaching is highlighted. The coaching process opens up a myriad of alternatives to reaching positive outcomes that may have never been previously considered by an individual on their own. Coaching is also time bound which highlights its support of achieving specific goals over a specific amount of time.
Another misconception is about coaching and therapy being interchangeable. It is extremely important to note that these interventions, although overlapping in some characteristics, are different and serve distinct purposes. Individuals must assess carefully which intervention is best suited for their unique needs, however coaching does not replace the role of therapy administered by a psychologist or a counsellor. Ultimately both are concerned with gaining positive outcomes for individuals in ways distinct to each intervention.
The transition from corporate to entrepreneur
Having had a good number of years in the HR and People Development space in corporate, I felt a deep desire to do work that I believed was of greater impact. Within my corporate work I was heavily involved with the organisation’s CSI projects which were highly education focused. In a country such as South Africa, with the many challenges faced by the youth, it became clear to me that education was one, very powerful tool that can be used to change the trajectory of many young people’s lives. This undoubtedly influenced the organisations that I then went on to work for. After my time in the corporate space, I embarked on a new and exciting chapter as part of an EdTech startup for several years, developing a distinct set of skills, knowledge and understanding of the education sector in South Africa.
After having dedicated myself to this journey and having completed an education qualification during my tenure, which provided me with greater insight and understanding into learning and education, I felt a deep desire to work closely with individuals and provide developmental support in ways that were individualised and unique to them. My passion for Psychology had been re-ignited and I felt that uniquely tailored support was needed particularly as individuals navigate through life’s transitions, with specific focus on young people with whom I had engaged extensively during my career.
I ultimately made the decision to branch out on my own and founded Heartwork ZA, which is a personal and professional development coaching practice specialising in uniquely tailored support for young adults and professionals in transition (starting in a career, seeking growth into a senior role, pivoting careers, developing/nurturing an additional career path) as well as facilitation and HR services consulting to SMMEs. Heartwork ZA was the culmination of my years in the corporate and education sectors and beautifully combined my love for people, psychology as well as education.
The challenge of starting
The challenges that I have experienced in relation to starting Heartwork ZA, were primarily around finally having the courage to silence the inner critic and start. It’s great to have an idea and have it incubated in the warmth of one’s heart and mind, however for it to make the desired impact, it must leave this safe place and be brought forth into the world. Overcoming the fear of failing and plans not working out was a huge challenge. I felt that 2020 presented the entire world and certainly myself with an opportunity to pause and reassess our lives. I deeply desired to look back on my life one day and feel that I had given my dreams the best possible opportunity at blossoming and becoming a reality. I worked extensively with my own coaches and went on several personal development programs to support myself in developing the necessary mindset and courage. Developing a growth mindset has contributed to my ability to adapt on this entrepreneurial journey, each challenge has to truly be seen as an opportunity for growth and development. I’ve also intentionally surrounded myself with supportive mentors, individuals and communities that are ever present to provide advice and guidance when challenges arise.
I believe that the entrepreneurial journey can be mentally and emotionally taxing and I have invested heavily in ensuring that I am reinforced and supported in every possible way in those areas through the use of routine, prayer, meditation, journaling and mindfulness practices and also being a recipient of coaching. I also infuse as much fun, joy and more recently rest into my work, which makes an immeasurable difference and allows me increased energy and vitality to face the inevitable challenges.