our story

When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that diamonds are made under pressure and oaks grow strong in contrary winds.”
 Peter Marshall

About our leadership and health coaching

We are cutting edge

We understand, from our long experience as NHS clinicians, senior managers and coaches, the crisis caused by dependency, unrealistic expectations, competing priorities, and inadequate funding, made worse by the pandemic. Health workers are stressed, burnt out and leaving, making it worse for those left.

Diamonds form under immense pressure, then are excavated, cut, and polished to brilliance. Potential, like a diamond, is hidden; it needs mining and cutting by another diamond to shine.

Coaching is a flexible tool for personal change and problem-solving that mines high potential. Initially for sports, coaching now benefits career transitions, diversity and inclusion, innovation and improvement, culture and behaviour change, including with patients and in clinical settings.

Despite evidence showing coaching improves leadership, well-being, job satisfaction, performance, and patient care, many professionals remain unfamiliar with it. Without investing in coaching, NHS leaders and organisations will remain in “survival mode” and unable to access the deep thinking vital for positive and sustainable change.
Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop.”

Renewing our system

Since 2010, through BETTER CONVERSATION, we pioneered and scaled health coaching nationally, leading to NHS England creating HEALTH COACHES. Throughout the pandemic, we offered wellbeing coaching to NHS staff. Now, we have refreshed our coaching offer with new insights and science to meet the needs of the system.

Our coaching and training now include practices like Qigong to manage stress beyond just thinking and talking. Our expertise in neurodiversity, trauma and Complementary and Alternative Medicines can be customised like a personal trainer. We have updated our health coaching offer for clinicians and teams to incorporate behaviour change skills into their daily consultations and build team coherence. We believe that spotlighting and exploring the concept of healing in a predominantly biomedical fix it model of health care will improve treatment, motivation, and acceptance of illness.

Together with professional coaching expertise, these additional modalities aim to inspire, build awareness and ease the burden for healthcare leaders and clinicians so they can, in turn, optimise their contribution and improve health.

The Team

Dr Penny Newman, Founder and Coach

Penny is a former GP, NHS Executive medical, public health and organisational development (OD) Director and serial social entrepreneur known for her work on gender equality, primary care development, innovation and health coaching. She holds a deep understanding of the NHS across sectors, large scale change expertise and is one of few accredited medical coaches. She is also an author, key note speaker, facilitator, trainer and senior medical appraiser.

Penny’s qualifications include MSc Coaching and Development (Distinction, Prize), EMCC Global EIA Accreditation Senior Practitioner, MBBS, MSc Public Health, FPH and MRCGP (Merit). She was voted top 50 GP 2012 and is an NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) Alumna.

Prof Deborah Christie, Clinical Psychologist and Coach

Professor Deborah Christie is an award-winning clinical psychologist, author, activist, public speaker, coach and trainer. She is a Professor of Paediatric and Adolescent Psychology and Consultant at University College London Hospitals and Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trusts.

Deborah brings considerable expertise to coaching leaders and teams, specialises in solution-focused and motivational interviewing and has dedicated much of her career to championing diversity, inclusion and equity. She offers specialised coaching to help people with neurodiversity thrive. 

Deborah continues to influence and mould the fields of psychology and coaching with over 200 publications and chapters, critical expert and a bestselling book Psychosocial Aspects of Diabetes in Children, Adolescents and Families.

John Millar, Qigong Master and Embodiment Trainer

John is an internationally renowned qigong practitioner who makes Qigong relevant and accessible within the corporate and healthcare sectors. Over the last three decades John has studied with leading teachers in the UK and China, qualifying to teach in four systems before committing to Zhineng Qigong.

Prior to becoming a full time Qigong practitioner John had a 20 year career in IT finance. A pilot programme for senior teams at Welcome Break in 2010 led the way to training a broad range of organisations in leadership, communication and wellbeing.

More recently Johns interests incorporate Integrative Medicine and working with the College of Medicine, where he is a regular speaker at national and international events.

Join leaders and clinicians like you achieving amazing results.

See what they say about Hǣlan coaching.

The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson


A senior doctor emigrates

Before coaching, I felt overwhelmed by a sense of gridlock. I was constantly pulled in different directions, feeling perpetually busy without making real progress on anything. Everything seemed important, leaving me unable to prioritise, with this feeling fueling resentment and frustration. Exhaustion and anger were my constant companions. I was struggling like a fish caught in a net – the more I fought the tighter the net became.
Coaching helped me unpick the core issues and gain much-needed objectivity. Patterns and common threads in my challenges became clear, making them feel less daunting and more manageable. The guidance in boundaries and boundary setting was invaluable – it enabled me to take effective action. My thoughts gained clarity, and particularly the introspection exercises gave me confidence in my decision to move abroad. They provided the strength to continue this journey. I now have a tangible action plan to move forward, and the regular check-ins keep me accountable for progress.
Penny’s coaching skills were absolutely instrumental. She masterfully challenged my thinking, encouraging a more nuanced approach and focused clarity. This helped direct my energy and effort towards realistic goals and objectives. I felt understood, supported, and empowered throughout the process. Thanks Penny!

A senior doctor leads global aid efforts

Embarking on this coaching journey with Penny Newman has been transformative. It was about more than career choices; it was about finding fulfillment, balance, and authenticity in every aspect of my life. The goals seemed ambitious at first – from making a significant career decision to enhance work-life balance, and embracing my true self without the constant urge to ‘fix’ others. Yet through the process, I’ve found a sense of clarity and calmness I hadn’t known before.
Penny’s approach was nothing short of phenomenal, providing unwavering support and the right balance of challenge when needed. The journey was filled with moments of breakthroughs, learning to embrace life more fully, and understanding that it’s possible to lead a purposeful yet quiet life.
In summary, this coaching experience was invaluable, helping me to rewrite my narrative towards one of fulfilment, confidence, and joy. I cannot recommend Penny enough to anyone looking to make meaningful changes in their life.

A lawyer transitions to partner

I have not had experience with coaching before and found Penny to be a truly excellent coach. She always knew when to encourage me to think further, consider something in a different way or take a pause to just really try to access and understand how I naturally respond to the various issues and situations under discussion.
I also found Penny to be a helpfully realistic and honest coach. There was no attempt on her part to minimise the various different issues raised and, in fact, she was particularly good at empathising with these and drawing comparisons with situations she has seen in the NHS. This proved very helpful in encouraging me to deal with the issues head-on, acknowledging that they are a problem and then finding ways to approach with them.

A coach manages her breast cancer diagnosis

I went into the coaching wanting to use the sessions to explore my relationship with coaching. Then the universe had different ideas for me, and I received the curve ball shell shock that I had breast cancer. When it came to the sessions I was mid-way through brutal chemo.
Penny’s curiosity and intellect/knowledge are phenomenal. All through life I’ve always enjoyed and sought out the company of people more intellectual than myself: fantastic opportunity for learning. Her medical background meant that she implicitly got my situation. She offered compassion in spades, but no pity, and wasn’t frightened to talk about the big and scary stuff. Most people are.
Overall benefits: An ever-adapting SAFE space: to be psychologically held; to untangle my thinking; to gingerly and explicitly explore future me; and most of all be utterly and wholly supported through an utterly shitty time – invaluable.

An entrepreneur clarifies her business priorities

Within just three sessions I was able to establish one clear key goal and establish a direction in regards to my business. I had been toying with the idea of setting up a charity alongside my corporate well-being arm. The embodied practice we did was incredible and clarified how I really felt about this option. By using the intelligence of the body along with the mind taught me to listen to my gut instinct more when making decisions.
After each session I felt enlightened, listened to and lighter. It also made me realise how much I had achieved and what I should be proud of. I can be very hard on myself and not give myself enough credit for what I do right and my achievements. We often look in the wrong places to gain recognition.

A senior physiotherapist gets a new job

The coaching sessions were interactive and extremely effective with Penny using a variety of coaching models to enable me to achieve my coaching goals. They provided me with clarity on my key strengths, gave me direction on what was important, and focused my attention on what to work on next. I was also able to explore internal barriers and unhelpful beliefs which may be holding me back and identify unwanted behaviours which could lead to burn out if left unchecked.
The sessions sparked my ‘can do’ attitude to apply for all the opportunities that came up over the last year and gave me permission to take time to explore my current career and when it might be time to pursue a change. Penny was an excellent coach who not only used coaching techniques to help me secure my goal but also gave me time to focus on my wellbeing and work life balance.

A senior doctor recovers from trauma

The sessions focused around me being ‘stuck’ in my work and needing confidence to move on. Penny helped me to look at things in a new way and this has been really beneficial. We also discussed personal impact and gravitas and how to have the confidence to do what I need to do. She has also helped me realise the deeper issues underlying some of my situation including trauma from work and has been extremely supportive. I also benefited hugely from the focus on leadership of women in medicine. The chance to talk about these issues with a peer who understands and gets it was invaluable.

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