How to Help Your Team Love What They Do

Stephanie Huston
5 min readJun 27, 2018

Book #13: Alive At Work by Daniel M. Cable

❤ Book #13 review from my 50 Books 2018 Challenge!

❤ You can read about my initial challenge progress, and check out all the books I’m reading this year here. I got off track, but I’m back at it now!

Alive At Work

The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do, by Daniel M. Cable

This book is officially on my “leadership must read” list.

We spend so many of our waking hours away from home and at our offices… it is senseless to not feel alive at work.

I was surprised to read that

“according to both US and global Gallup polls, about 80% of workers don’t feel that they can be their best at work, and 70% are not engaged at work.”

8 out of 10 people feel they can’t be their best at work!?

7 out of 10 people are not engaged at work?!

I knew it was bad, but not THAT bad!

We have got to fix that problem, and Daniel Cable provides excellent insights into how both employers and employees can drastically improve our current situation.

We’ve come a long way since the Industrial Revolution, but unfortunately many remnants of that management style remain and only serve to stifle employees at this point in time.

“Being humble and trying to learn from employees is more effective than emphasizing hierarchy.”

Daniel makes the solid point that most of us leaders today don’t even personally believe that people work best under these conditions, but our organizations are still deeply entrenched in these assumptions and policies about control through standardized performance metrics.

It’s time for a work life revolution and “Alive At Work” is our guidebook!

“An innovation culture must be nurtured.

It’s not enough to hire creative and highly motivated people; that’s the old war for talent.

As a leader, you also have to activate people’s seeking systems to ignite their intrinsic motivation and creativity.”

This book dives into the seeking system that works to drive employees motivation, how organizations can adapt, and exactly what leaders can do to improve employee zest.

In my interview with Daniel, I asked him if he thought that this new wave of millennial management coming in will help to completely transform work culture and truly prioritize the focus on feeling alive at work:

“Absolutely. By 2030, millennials alone will comprise three out of every four individuals in the U.S. workforce — and companies will increasingly grapple with how to accelerate the development of those individuals for leadership positions.

The younger generations care more about the triggers of the seeking system than older generations… the dopamine is more valuable than the money!”

Having a team that loves what they’re doing is an incredible, enlightening experience for both the individuals and the group.

Our built in biology urges us to explore our environments, experiment, and learn — and that’s exactly what companies need to give employees the freedom to do.

Alive at Work is a great fit for managers to read, but I would also equally recommend reading to any employees looking to improve their work life, make an impact on their team, and become a leader.

“Humble leadership: it is based on serving employees. Because management is an overhead cost, managers do not create value unless they are serving the employees who create the value.”

I agree that humble leadership is key to creating value through serving employees. In my interview with Daniel, I asked him what he would say to someone who still doubts that sharing their imperfections with their team is a productive way to drive happiness at work:

“I think it’s less a matter of talking about imperfections and more about talking about learning and growing, and about how we all have to walk before we can run.

As we learn to do new things it doesn’t go perfect at first until we practice and make it our own.

And then the leader can model this both by taking on new things her/himself and also by allowing/encouraging others to try new approaches and learn.”

When it comes down to it, we would all prefer to bring our best selves into the office and be happy at work. Cable offers experiments and research proving out his results on how to best achieve this in the work place.

My biggest takeaway as a manager from this book is that allowing, encouraging, and supporting your team to bring their personal identity into work makes a world of a difference. I feel truly inspired to dive into these exercises with my team to bring out the best in all of us!

To close things out, I asked Cable what is one thing someone can do everyday to feel more alive at work:

“I think the best option is to think about the part of the job that seems to connect the most with personal values and unique skills, and take on a bit more of that work even if it’s voluntary and volunteer at first.

Just do it because it lights you up.

After a little while I think you can talk with your supervisor about expanding that part of the job.”

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Disclosure: This book link is an affiliate link, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I received this book from Harvard Business Review Press. The opinions I have expressed are unfiltered and my own.



Stephanie Huston

🌍 Entrepreneur | PR Maven | Disruptive | Thought Leader | Coach | INFJ | Explorer 🌏 7Continents+46Countries+46States 🌎 👯‍♀️🧿