Coach Interview Series: Johanna Beyer

by Brandon

Johanna Beyer

Life Coach

Our main objective here at the National Coach Academy is to enable aspiring coaches to reach their full professional potential. One of the most effective ways to educate students about the world of coaching is by offering them a window into the world of real, practicing coaches and showing them all the different ways coaches make a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope today’s interview adds another insightful glimpse into the dynamic world of coaching.

Today we are interviewing Johanna Beyer. Johanna is a Life Coach based in Mill Valley, California.

NCA: Can you describe your coaching practice and the kinds of clients you typically work with?

Johanna: My coaching practice is On Your Path Consulting, which I began in 2002. I work primarily with high functioning people and leaders who are stuck. They’ve been hearing the whispers for quite a while that their career or their industry isn’t a fit anymore, and they’re completely paralyzed because they don’t know how to navigate out of that or how to recreate something new for themselves and their work. They’re usually at a point in their work where they’re making really good money and they have a pretty high title, but they’re so burnt out on the inside and it’s really starting to chip away.

They come to me usually through that portal of “I need to figure out my work life and my new path.” Once we start working, we peel back the layers. I like to investigate with them around who they are, their journeys, and what makes them tick. We do a deep dive into limiting beliefs and old behaviors. As we begin to emerge through purpose and vision, then we get to the action plan and make the change that way.

I would say the age range I work with is people between 25 to 50.

NCA: Can you think back on some of the motivating factors for what made you pursue this career?

Johanna: It’s an interesting journey. I got my Master’s in Organizational Development back in the ‘90s because I really wanted to work with teams and organizations and think about systems as a whole. I worked in a couple of different consulting practices out in San Francisco and got so many great experiences of leading big offsites, think tanks, and things like that for people to think strategically about their businesses, their values, and their purpose.

When I reflected on my work back then, I realized what I really loved was not necessarily the strategic part of the company work, but the inside journey people took — when they have A-ha moments about who they were and what they could do in their work and their roles. It was before life coaching even existed. It existed, but barely. There were no training institutes; there was no industry around it. I wanted to take all the stuff I’ve learned throughout my years of consulting and my Master’s degree and figure out a process that could help individuals in transition, not just teams and companies.

I hung my shingle with barely anything. I had my process and I started to get clients. At the time, I was living in Washington DC. I never did a certification in coaching because I had my Master’s and I had so much experience under my belt. What I do is, every year I pick a teacher — a master teacher like Byron Katie or Martha Beck or a workshop at Escalon. I invest every year in people that are really inspiring me. I’ve never done an actual certification at a coaching institute.

NCA: In working with your clients, what would you say is the most rewarding part of that process and on the flip side of that, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Johanna: It’s been 20 years now and I still love to wake up and do this work because I innately trust that people have so much more wisdom and clarity than they think they do. Their ego tells them they’re lost or they’ll never find something new or they don’t know what the hell their purpose is — they just have so much doubt around what they can create and what they can co-create with their life.

It’s so rewarding when people shine a light on their limiting beliefs and behaviors and they start to experiment with something new. Then an opportunity comes their way and they practice something different. Maybe they’ll have a really difficult conversation and it unfolds beautifully and they get stronger and stronger. I love it.

I love it when people tell me, “I feel so different about who I am and what I can create right now.” Then it’s icing on the cake when they land a new job or bring in a significant relationship that they never thought they could have. I’m always so inspired when a person decides deep down that something can be different and they’re willing to do the work. That’s what I love.

Every year I pick a teacher — a master teacher like Byron Katie or Martha Beck or a workshop at Escalon. I invest every year in people that are really inspiring me.

The most challenging for me is someone who is a “Yes, but” person. I tend to weed them out pretty quick because I do an introduction call. I can tell when someone’s ready to do the work. When someone’s asking me to prove my worth to them, I don’t work with them because that, to me, is resistance. They might ask, “Personally, how many people have you helped?” I tell them, “I’m not going to prove that to you. Do you want to do the work or not?” [laughing]

When they aren’t really opening up to the possibility and they’re staying true to their limitations, it’s frustrating. Or they’ll say, “I haven’t done anything that we talked about” over and over again. That’s my worst nightmare. Sometimes clients will think, “Oh, this is just not going anywhere.” By the next session, they’ve landed on something and it’s clicked. It’s like, “Wow, that’s awesome! Okay. I wouldn’t have told you this. I didn’t see this coming, but I’m so thrilled.”

NCA: Can you think of a mentor or a coach in your own career who was the most vital to your success and in what ways did this mentor help you thrive in your career?

Johanna: I had a teacher in my 20s and 30s named Dr. Angeles Arrien. She was a PhD and an anthropologist who had a foundation, The Four-Fold Way. She taught thousands and thousands of people how to really bring in spirit and cross cultural references and other learnings and teachings into our work.

She was the most amazing teacher I’ve ever had. At the time, I was young. She saw my potential which felt incredibly inspiring to me. To feel like someone that I respected that much could look at me and say, “You’re the next generation to do this work, Johanna.” That was pretty amazing. She was my greatest teacher. She also wrote many books; The Fourfold Way is one of my favorites.

There are people who don’t know they’re my mentors, but I love learning from them. I love learning from Byron Katie. I love learning from Martha Beck. I think Marie Forleo is fantastic. I’m always inspired by other people, not only in coaching.

I have people who call me that are either going to begin a coaching training or are interested in it. I feel like my giveback is to always accept those calls. I always will give half an hour of my time to hear where they’re at and share any words of wisdom I have for them.

Two years ago, I trained one of my clients. She’s been a consultant for many years, but she’s quite talented with groups and processes. I trained her in my process and I now give her clients and helping her build her own coaching practice. It was really fun to teach my process to her. I always feel like my way of giving back is to support anyone who wants to get into this field.

I’m in my most creative self when I release my inner critic — when I release the pressure to be something perfect. That’s when I’m at my best. Those are my most incredible sessions.

NCA: One of the most common challenges new coaches face is self-doubt. Some coaches call it Imposter Syndrome, where early on they feel somehow inadequate to take on the role of coach. What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is in the beginning stage of their coaching career and dealing with these doubts in their mind?

Johanna: I feel like I’ve come a million miles but I still struggle sometimes. I’m a 2 on the Enneagram — I am a helper and a giver. I want to always fix things for people. But that’s what I had to learn as a coach: we are not responsible for fixing or solving for anyone. That is their role. When you bring intense listening and deep compassion and a great process, that is enough. That is your role and you don’t have to deliver all of these amazing solutions for your client at every single session. You want them to land on them when they are ready.

When you start feeling like you’re not good enough, ask yourself, what are you thinking good enough is? What are the expectations you have for yourself? Because they might be completely wrong for what you’re supposed to be doing for a person. It’s a co-creation with your client. You are not responsible for solving everything and for fixing someone. That’s my big piece of advice.

Whenever you think, “Oh God, what are they paying me for?” Just wait. It’s not immediate. Sometimes, three or four sessions down the line is when they absolutely wake up to something they’ve never thought about. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform.

When you release all of that pressure to be unbelievable and perfect and feel valuable all the time, you get really present and really curious with whoever you’re working with. It’s like a puzzle. You can ask really amazing questions. Keep asking until you land on something and then when you do, go deeper with it. It’s a mystery. Every time someone walks in, I have a very strict process I bring them to. It’s a mystery what they’re going to bring — it’s so fun.

I’m in my most creative self when I release my inner critic — when I release the pressure to be something perfect. That’s when I’m at my best. Those are my most incredible sessions.

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