Executive coaching

I provide leadership coaching (or ‘executive coaching’) and life coaching, either in person or by video link. I work with clients in the UK and internationally and can often meet in the evenings and at weekends. 

Coaching gives you a trusted relationship in which to broaden your perspective, solve problems, clarify plans and maintain your energy. Coaching is often used when you’re feeling stuck, considering making a change, establishing yourself in a new setting, or when you need to rediscover your purpose and passions. It’s not about being told how the coach would handle it, but exploring options and unleashing your own ideas and potential.

Most people generally have an initial course of 5 or 6 coaching sessions of around 90 minutes, as this is usually enough to address the top priority you’ve brought. I’ll work with you to tailor the plan to your situation and needs, though. It’s often helpful to begin with one-to-one sessions with a senior leader and then consider some support for the wider team, and I’m very happy to talk about that kind of possibility.

Coaching is usually focussed on addressing a specific question, decision or journey, and we’ll begin by clarifying what you want to get out of our time together. Coaching is the most ‘bespoke’ kind of development or support which an individual or team can have. It should always be tailored just for you.

compass, orientation, map-5261062.jpgUnderstanding better.

Where relevant I use a wide variety of proven tools and assessments to help you gain deeper insight and greater clarity about yourself, how you are doing and how others see you. 

The tools I most often find useful are: the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI), Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI), 16Personalities, Clifton Strengths Finder (formerly Gallup Strengths Finder), NHS Healthcare Leadership Model, the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, and the Cynefin Framework.

Consider your options.

Coaching helps you step back and consider your options. As a trusted ‘third party’ I will work with you to find creative solutions and prioritise possibilities. We’ll draw on your own values, strengths and priorities, rather than having anyone else’s imposed on you.

Set off on the journey.

Together, we’ll work out a plan for your next steps. As you set off, we will take stock with each step to see how things are turning out. No plan is perfect, so being ready to flex is a key part of success. I will help you be clear about what you’re aiming to achieve, and can help hold you to account for doing what you’ve agreed.

Understanding motivation, improving communication and reducing conflict. Developing your relationship intelligence (RQ) with the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI). 


Developing your personal strengths. Use of inventories including Portrait of Strengths (from Strength Deployment Inventory), Myers-Briggs (MBTI), 16Personalities, Clifton Strengths Finder (formerly Gallup Strengths Finder). 

Growing your strengths and style. Assessments using Goleman leadership styles, the NHS Healthcare Leadership Model, the TKI (Thomas-Kilmann conflict Inventory) and others. 

Understanding how others see you. A range of 360 degree appraisal and feedback tools, tailored for your situation. 

Changing unhelpful patterns of thought or behaviour. Support to use cognitive behavioural (CBT) insights and neurolinguistic programming (NLP) approaches to address self-defeating thoughts and habits. 

Leading in uncertainty. Guided insights drawing on the Cynefin Framework and VUCA

More about me

I am Robert Varnam, a former GP, academic and strategic leader in the NHS. I have an international reputation as an inspirational coach of leaders and adviser to governments and senior leaders in healthcare systems. Over the past 15 years, I have provided ideas, training and coaching to leaders at local, regional and national level in government, healthcare and the charity sector. I have designed a number of national transformation and improvement programmes in the NHS, and run teams of leadership coaches and organisational development experts working with frontline leaders and teams.

In 2021, I stepped down as national Director of Primary Care Improvement in NHS England where, among other things, I had led the development of vision and strategy for the NHS, pioneered a £2.4bn pa programme of service transformation and run one of the world’s largest programme of innovation and improvement in primary care.

I now provide bespoke consultancy on large scale change and service improvement, coach senior leaders, provide training in change leadership and management, and mentor emerging leaders. I am currently working in England, Scotland, Alberta, Ontario and South Africa, covering healthcare, government, the legal profession and community transformation organisations.

More about my approach to coaching

I bring my diverse experience to coaching, along with my passion for seeing leaders flourish as they lead successful teams and sustainable change. I draw on a wide range of leadership models and insights, and am particularly passionate about helping to align people and plans, hearts and minds. The focus of coaching, though, is entirely on the needs of the client, and I employ a number of different diagnostic tools and coaching techniques to help you deepen your insights and develop your skills and confidence. My aim is to help you achieve your aim.

As a flexible and compassionate coach, I work to help clients achieve their goals by adapting to their preferred style of learning and communication. I believe that every client is unique and has their own strengths and challenges. I do not impose a one-size-fits-all approach or tell clients what to do. Instead, I listen carefully to their needs and aspirations, ask powerful questions that challenge their assumptions and stimulate their creativity, and offer constructive feedback that supports their growth. I also encourage clients to reflect on their progress and celebrate their achievements along the way.

I recognise that change can be difficult and sometimes overwhelming. That is why I create a safe and supportive space for clients to explore their options and experiment with new behaviours. I also help clients to identify potential barriers or setbacks that may arise, and equip them with strategies to overcome them. I am not afraid to challenge clients when they are stuck or holding themselves back, but I always do so with respect and empathy. I also acknowledge that coaching is a collaborative process that requires mutual trust and commitment. I am always open to feedback from clients on how I can improve my coaching practice and enhance their experience.

I use a range of different tools including well-known psychometric assessments such as the Strength Deployment Inventory, Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, Thomas Killman Conflict Instrument and Clifton Strengths Finder. I am a level 3 qualified coach in the Strength Deployment Inventory, and I am currently working towards an ILM level 7 diploma in senior and executive coaching. I have 15 years’ experience of using cognitive behavioural therapy techniques in medical practice, and bring this approach into my coaching practice were relevant. 

Working with senior leaders

Senior leaders need to kill two birds with one stone

My coaching is particularly tailored to the needs of senior leaders who want to simultaneously accelerate their plans and develop their personal capabilities. I understand the complex and dynamic challenges that senior leaders face today. I also appreciate the high expectations and pressures that they have to deal with from multiple stakeholders.

Many of my clients want to pursue personal development, growing in their insights and skills as leaders – but they’re also hard-pressed for time and need to ‘get on’ with a particular challenge. I firmly believe in trying to do both – to learn-while-doing – and clients’ feedback consistently shows that working together has helped them achieve multiple goals, both immediate and longer-term.

I help senior leaders to clarify their goals and priorities, identify their strengths and areas for development, and create action plans that are realistic and achievable. I also support them to develop their leadership skills and competencies, such as strategic thinking, emotional intelligence, communication, influence and resilience. I use a variety of tools and methods to help senior leaders to assess their current situation, explore new perspectives and possibilities, and implement changes that lead to positive outcomes.

My coaching is flexible and adaptable to the changing needs and preferences of senior leaders. I offer different modes and formats of coaching, such as face-to-face, online, one-to-one and group work. I am happy to adapt to your needs and availability. I respect the confidentiality and autonomy of senior leaders, and ensure that they have full control over their own learning journey. My role is to be a trusted partner who can challenge, support and empower them to achieve their full potential.

Robert Varnam adheres to the Global Code of Ethics for coaches, mentors and supervisors, which promotes the highest standards of professionalism. In particular it emphases the duty of confidentiality and the requirement to serve the client’s best interests in an open and non-judgemental way. The full Code is available at www.globalcodeofethics.org/download-the-code/.

Register for personal support

No obligation. We will be in touch as soon as possible to discuss your needs and book at date. 


Register your interest. This is not a commitment. We will be in touch very soon.