Human Resources and Small Business & Startups

Q&A: Abbey Johnston

October 17, 2017
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Abbey Johnston
Abbey Johnston. Courtesy AG Collaborative

Editor’s note: Each Q&A in the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a woman from the region who’s influential, a rising face in her industry or doing interesting work. Submit tips on potential Q&A subjects to tgortsema at grbj dot com.

Abbey Johnston is a leadership coach and consultant.

She opened her firm, Abbey Coaching, four years ago. As of last month, Johnston has officially partnered with Greg Mutch. She said they are in the process of launching their partnership firm – AG Collaborative, where they work on "transforming the interior landscape of leaders."

Since her start, Johnston has been “privileged” to work with a wide variety of companies and organizations, ranging from Community Action House in Holland to Grand Valley State University to Dell Computers.

Johnston said she’s taken a “non-traditional path.” After high school, she moved to Northern Ireland and did volunteer youth work for three years. Upon returning, she knew she wanted to study psychology. In order to fund that education, she became a certified massage therapist to fund her way through college, along with a few other jobs, like being a barista and working in marketing. She continued her education with a master’s in leadership and communications.

Biggest career break?

My biggest career break was when I discovered that what I had always thought I was going to do and be didn’t feel like it fit anymore. So I guess you could say my biggest career break was confusion, anxiety and a healthy dose of fear. Without this season in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today. 

Proudest moment?

When I first started drafting this response I had listed a variety of situations where I worked for significant clients and received really great feedback. Those were definitely confidence-boosting moments but not my proudest. What makes me most proud is when I get to be an active participant in helping clients wake up to who they are, gain confidence in their unique contributions and help them take ownership and initiation for their impacts on the world.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t run with scissors. And “choose action not perfection.” As a recovering perfectionist, this has proved to be a helpful mantra. However, I had a really hard time narrowing this answer down. I’m lucky to have a lot of really wise people in my life who have each spoken a significant amount of wisdom into my life, because — let’s be honest — I’ve needed it.

How did you make your first dollar?

I have no idea. But it’s probably a safe bet that it was for doing chores. My parents were big supporters of child labor. (For anyone who is tempted to think I am serious about my parents supporting child labor, I’m not. Sorry mom, I couldn’t resist.)

Most-treasured possession?

My passport

Dream job?

What I am doing now. I know that sounds like a canned response — but it’s true! I never dreamed I’d be fully content in a job, but I am. I love what I get to do and who I get to do it with. My clients are amazing, and my partner in business, Greg Mutch, is absolutely brilliant.

If you were president for a day, you would…?

Resign. Being a past president feels like a more appropriate role for me.  Then I could open a foundation and run that instead.

Last book you read?

I have several books going at once, so I most recently finished “The Naked Now,” by Richard Rhor and “Trevor Noah: Born A Crime.”

Last search term you googled?

The etymology of the word practice. I am a nerd. I know. I love words. Understanding the origin of words helps me make better sense of the world.

Your worst habit?

Speeding and slurping the end of my morning smoothie through a straw (My husband helped me with this one :) )

To unwind, you like to…?

Exercise, hike, bike, have great conversations with friends over fabulous meals

Dream vacation?

Anywhere that isn’t Michigan in the winter. I love Michigan and hate the winters. It’s quite a predicament.

Favorite food?

Peanut butter. Sometimes I get worried that I love peanut butter more than my husband.

Person you most admire?

At the risk of sounding really cheesy, the person I most admire is my husband. He is deeply wise, endlessly supportive and super funny. He has helped me discover more of me....I guess I do like him more than peanut butter. 

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