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leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

After decades of helping people navigate their careers and develop into leaders, the one constant I have found is that people want to do work that makes them feel valued and respected and enables them to make a positive contribution. If any one of these satisfiers is missing, most people will become frustrated, less engaged, and far less productive. Many will move to another job. Others will stay on, but will be less engaged, and so not working at their optimal level of productivity.

I have led a series of Mastermind Leadership Groups for several years now. Masterminds are groups of like-minded individuals who share a common interest and meet on a regular basis to help one another reach their goals. My experience with the executive-level women who join these groups has illuminated many common grievances that any business would do well to address if they want to retain their top talent.

I am currently leading a Mastermind Leadership Group with eight professional women who are determined to figure out and execute their next work-related bold moves.

One group member wants a promotion to vice-president as she feels she's been doing the job anyway and deserves the title. Another member wants to leave her current company because she's not getting recognized at the level she thinks she should be and believes she's hit the proverbial glass ceiling. Another is so burnt out that she wants to restructure her workday so she can have some semblance of a life outside of her 70-80-hour work week. A fourth member was restructured out of her sizable job when her company was acquired and the new leadership team replaced her with one of their own. She wants to figure out how to get rid of the bitterness she feels and what to do next career-wise.

There are three key lessons I'd like to share with you from our Mastermind Leadership Group to help you retain any top talent who might be frustrated or thinking of leaving (I guarantee you, you won't have a clue this is happening) because they are feeling dissatisfied, underutilized, or undervalued. Caring about your people in extraordinary ways will show them they are valued and inspire them to create amazing results.

Talk it out

Surprisingly, many women in our high-powered group feel their organization either doesn't care about them or their boss is just clueless. One woman has been at the company for just nine months. She reports her boss micro-manages her. More importantly, she says he has not once asked her how everything is going or how she is doing. She thinks his lack of interest must mean her well-being is not important to him. Never in her career has she felt so underappreciated and so impotent to create the results she has always been capable of. She is miserable and certain she made a mistake taking this job.

It's so important to talk to your people regularly about their wins and their challenges and to ask them sincerely how work is going for them. If you don't ask, they are likely not to tell, in spite of the fact they may be unhappy and frustrated. Top talent often yearns for something better for themselves. Knowing what that something is and whether you can help them achieve it is a smart idea, especially since they are most likely going there anyway.

Don't go it alone

One of the main reasons our Mastermind attendees decided to register for our group program was to be in an intimate supportive network of other like-minded individuals. Provide opportunities for you and your people to expand their knowledge and their network. The resources, support, and accountability a committed group of individuals can provide is priceless. Everyone, particularly those in senior roles, can benefit from professional growth opportunities.

Track goals and progress

We're all about setting goals and achieving them. The first step is to identify three to five goals you want to reach and then break them down into conditions of satisfaction – the conditions required for you to be satisfied. One Mastermind member has set a goal to increase her happiness at work. This is an admirable goal, but her next step is to identify exactly what would have to happen in order for her to be happier. Would she need more thinking time at work? Would she need to work on one of the top three corporate strategic initiatives, or would she need to use her skills in a different capacity? Clarifying these satisfiers will help you be crystal clear when you fulfill them. Then you can start to measure your success and/or progress.

We all need help and guidance to navigate the way to our next professional destination. Participating in a Mastermind Group is a great resource and tool for anyone who wants guided support, accountability, and a healthy dose of courage to move forward.

Wendy Capland (@WendyCapland) is CEO and founder of Vision Quest Consulting, internationally-recognized leadership development expert and best-selling author of the book Your Next Bold Move for Women.