Coaches / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Dan Haesler, Director of Cut Through Coaching & Consulting

Dan Haesler is the Director of Cut Through Coaching & Consulting, where he works with elite athletes and Olympians, as well as corporate and educational leaders. 

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I graduated from University as a PE Teacher in 1999 and landed my first teaching job in Manchester, at one of the UK’s largest inner-city schools.

Despite having a teaching qualification, I realised that my degree had done little to prepare me to work with many of the young people who were facing significant social disadvantage. And so began my informal education into mindset, resilience, wellbeing and motivation. 

I moved to Australia in 2002 and found myself working at the other end of the educational spectrum, in a small independent school in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. However, what I discovered in my time at that school is that all young people are dealing with ‘stuff’; it just manifests differently. 

In 2010, I was awarded a NSW Government Scholarship to raise awareness and address depression in education. This allowed me to work with some of the world’s leading thinkers in this space and develop approaches and tools that schools could use.

I was also invited to speak at national education events and write for various publications on topics of education, wellbeing and motivation. This exposure led to many different organisations enquiring as to how I might work with them.

I left my teaching role at the end of 2012 – not because I wanted to leave teaching – but because other opportunities were too exciting for me to ignore. I set about creating what I do now, which is – along with my wife and small team at Cut Through Coaching, working with people to help them and those around them to thrive. 

Today, I work with elite athletes, teams as well as corporate and educational leaders around issues of leadership, engagement, mindset and performance. In August my book, The Act of Leadership will be published through Wiley. 

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Typically, I like to kick my day off with some form of exercise, whether that’s at the gym, at home, or walking the dog. The nature of my work can vary from day-to-day or even within the same day.

Recently I facilitated a morning workshop with the partners of a large consulting firm around emotional intelligence, before a lunchtime mindset coaching call with a leading NRL player.

The afternoon saw me working with School Principals from across Australia and New Zealand in one of our Online Coaching Academies around how to hold their teams accountable before an evening Zoom session with athletes and their partners about dealing with uncertainty ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine? 

My role as a coach has always been somewhat flexible in that I’m often out and about, but with COVID, we’ve found the widespread move to remote learning has broken down many of the barriers people had to working with us online.

Prior to 2020, people might have seen online learning or programs as somehow inferior, but given that learning takes place between the ears, and assuming the substance and facilitation is good, the medium is less relevant.

Now people are experiencing this for themselves. In my opinion, much of so-called ‘Zoom Fatigue’ is more to do with the mind-numbing drudgery of the work being done rather than the platform.

And of course, online learning also empowers to bring increasingly diverse groups of people from across the globe together which only serves to enhance the learning experience.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I think about it in terms of work-life integration, and to what extent does my work fit in with my life and vice versa.

For example, a work trip (when travel is allowed) might often mean a family trip and being able to watch my children’s sporting, musical or drama activities whenever possible is important to me so I’ll block these out in my calendar, and it needs to be something special for me to compromise on that.

Given that my wife is also my business partner and looks after all the operations of the business, we’re able to be pretty disciplined around how and where our time gets allocated. Because I love my work, it would be easy for me to get swallowed up with it, because as all business owners can attest to, there is always something else you could be doing.

So, I do have to be careful to ensure that I switch off completely every now and then, both mentally and literally. In these moments I love switching off the phone and knowing I won’t be switching it back on for a few days. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life? 

I’m not sure to what extent it’s changing my life, but I’m playing the guitar a little more now.

My son declared he had joined a band with a few of his mates, and given I’m around the house a little more, it’s been good to sit with him and figure out some tunes together and have him recommend ‘new’ bands to me like ACDC.

Also, my 10-year-old daughter has taken to writing her own tunes on the piano and I love watching her being creative. For Mother’s Day this year, she wrote and performed a song for my wife with me accompanying her on the guitar. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house! Except for my son. He wasn’t that bothered. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Well, as for books, I’d recommend The Act of Leadership obviously! And when it comes to podcasts, I host the Habits of Leadership Podcast, in which we chat to the world’s leading thinkers and doers in all manner of domains.

Guests have included the likes of Daniel Pink, Carol Dweck, Dual Olympic Champion, Anna Meares and the late Sir Ken Robinson. I also like to listen to the Coaching for Leaders Podcast, as well as Freakonomics and Choiceology.

As for books, I’ve just finished 7 ½ Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett and Happier No Matter What by Tal Ben Shahar. Other than that, Drive by Daniel Pink and Mindset by Carol Dweck have been really influential reads for me. 

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I like that my tablet allows me to carry all my favourite books with me, and my phone lets me listen to those new bands my son tells me about, whilst keeping in touch with my family in the UK by beating them at Word With Friends.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Nir Eyal, who has written Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life   

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

As the boundaries become increasingly blurred between work and home life, I think it’s worthwhile checking in with yourself regularly to ask yourself, how happy are you with either of these three concepts, work, life or balance.

Score yourself out of 10 for each, and then assuming you’re anything less than a 10 on any of the three, explore what it might take to score yourself 1 point more. For example, what could you start, stop or do more of in order to move from a 6 to a 7? (And then act on that!)

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.