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Wits Business School: Developing a new generation of master coaches

Dr Jabulile Msimango-Galawe is a rare kind of teacher: an entrepreneur who decided to become a business coach to help other entrepreneurs avoid the unnecessary mistakes that she had made.  Not only that, but she pursued a doctorate in the field of entrepreneurship in her quest to find answers to the perplexing problem of why so many start-ups fail.

“I became a business coach because my first business failed after six years of operation. The failure left me with scars and made me go search for answers, which led me to do my PhD. In the process, I decided I want to coach other entrepreneurs, so they don’t make the same mistakes that I made because of a lack of knowledge,” says Dr Msimango-Galawe, Director of the Master of Management in Business and Executive Coaching (MM-BEC) at Wits Business School.

“In South Africa 75 to 90% (depending which report you reference) of businesses fail in the first three to five years of operation, and one of the factors attributed to this is a lack of experienced mentors and business coaches. At the time, I was advised by people who were seeing things from a corporate lens, people who did not understand that as a small business you don’t have resources, you don’t have a board, you don’t have a division that looks after marketing, another after sales, another after finance, etc. You have to be ‘all-in-one’ as an entrepreneur and bootstrap your way up,” she says.

While other business schools in South Africa offer executive coaching qualifications, the WBS MM-BEC stands out because of the extensive practical component which is augmented by a rigorous theoretical and research component.

“The programme is structured in such a way that in the first year students focus on theoretical concepts ranging from psychology to leadership to business in general, as well as having to do their 50 hours of coaching practice,” Dr Msimango-Galawe explains. “The second year is all about research. This learning process is very rigorous and produces a whole rounded person and coach who will be ready to practice and become accredited as a professional coach the minute he or she graduates.”

Executive coaching is still an emerging field and is currently not regulated. There are, however, a number of organisations, or bodies, that are working hard to ‘professionalise’ the industry, such as the International Coach Federation (ICF) and Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA), among others.

Wits Business School was the first business school in South Africa to be affiliated to the global Graduate School Alliance for Education in Coaching (GSAEC), a leading body which provides very specific guidelines and standards of practice. This makes the WBS MM-BEC qualification uphold not only high academic standards but also professional standards.

Recognising that executive coaching requires a depth of understanding of both individual needs as well as business needs, the MM-BEC encompasses the psychological theory underpinning coaching, as well as business principles and organisational development.

“There are numerous studies that suggest that coaching/mentorship does improve both the business and the individual being coached/mentored. Studies show that individuals who have been coached become more confident and manage their businesses better, thus improving the performance of their businesses, whether as entrepreneurs or executives,” notes Msimango-Galawe.

“The terms coaching and mentoring are used interchangeably, but one thing they have in common is that it is all about support, development and improvement of the individual and by extension, their businesses or careers.”

While still considered an ‘emerging field’, business and executive coaching is evolving fast, around the world. Most large corporates have recognised that coaching is worth the investment and are willing to pay coaches to ensure that their executives deliver or perform.

As an entrepreneur at heart, however, Msimango-Galawe’s passion is to better understand how coaching can support, develop and improve the performance of small business owners.

“Entrepreneurship is complex and difficult. Having a body of qualified coaches/mentors who have a solid foundation in the practice and theory of coaching is one thing that I believe can make our entrepreneurship ecosystem in South Africa function better. It may not be the whole answer, but it is definitely one of the ways we can improve the rate of start-up success.”

Applications for the January intake of the Master of Management in Business and Executive Coaching are open.

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This article was published in partnership with Wits.

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Wits Business School: Developing a new generation of master coaches