At some point in your career (hopefully), you’ll get a call from a recruiter for a job that intrigues you. And you’ll listen.
It has little to do with desire to change jobs or engagement. If you are attractive enough to get a call (and even more, and interview), you’re doing something right. Good work, results, and enough positive press to get attention, even if you generate it yourself. That generally means the work you are doing is meaningful to you, you are having success at it, and you are being acknowledged for it.
So why do we wander? Is it that recruiters are so good at their pitch, we have to listen? Maybe some. Is it that we are secretly miserable and hoping the next call will ask us to be the new GM of the Padres? Doubtful. Are we just too darn polite to hang up the phone? As likely as anything.
But the reason people listen is because of ego. It feels good to be wanted. If feels nice to have someone you don’t know call you up and say “I want you on my team!” Even if you feel engaged and valued in your current job, it’s nice to hear it from someone else.
So how do we combat this with our own teams? An easy answer is to make sure your stars are getting the respect and recognition from someone else besides you. Another level up is good, but a leader in a different function or location, who has very little contact with them, can make a huge impact just by saying “I’ve heard about the work you’re doing, and it’s great! Glad you are on our side!”
It’s ok to let them wander. Just make sure they are wandering close to home, and they come back at the end.