Star Profile

Janove, Jathan. (2008). The Star Profile. Mountain View, CA: Davies-Black Publishing

This is another of Janove’s practical strategies which make conversations more focused and more productive. See my previous post for his “Hard-Won Wisdom” book for other good strategies. ‎

The prevailing system of management is, at its core, dedicated to mediocrity. It forces people to work harder and harder to compensate for failing to tap the spirit and collective intelligence that characterizes [people] working together at their best W. Edwards Deming

Profiles helps leader get clear about what are important qualities. So many job descriptions give a list of duties. Job descriptions typically list the following:

  • Duties and responsibilities
  • Essential functions
  • Required skills
  • Necessary or desired educational background
  • Physical demands
  • Working conditions
  • Qualifications required and desired experience
  • Reporting structure

Star Profiles are extremely important to define the results in addition to the technical expertise. Here are few bullets to help explain what Star Profiles are:

  • Clarifying what is truly most important about a job
  • Recruiting more effectively by conveying a sense of opportunity to candidates
  • Making smarter hiring and promotion decisions
  • Improving new employee orientations
  • Providing effective employee feedback, both informally and formally
  • Resolving leadership succession issues
  • Helping organizations in other ways, such as defusing interdepartmental conflict and promoting better alignment among departments

There are many research studies about how employees are less than engaged, do not get helpful feedback from supervisors, and sense a lack of candor and honesty within the organization. A couple of recommendations for further study would be Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Pink’s work titled “Drive,” and Amy Edmondson’s book on psychological safety, “The Fearless Organization.”

In “The Progress Principle,” Amabile and Kramer (2011) found having a sense of accomplishment to be key to employee motivation: “When we compared people’s best days with their worst, the most important differentiator was being able to make progress in the work.’

Here is an example of a Star Profile for Vice President of Human Resources:

  • Develops human capital to achieve our organizational goals
  • Identifies problems and solutions, doesn’t cover up mistakes
  • Serves as a trust coach for our managers, keeping decisions legally compliant while creating a performance-oriented culture
  • Conveys to employees that we want to be fair, do things right, and fix problems at the earliest opportunity
  • Builds an HR team that achieves these results without creating a bureaucracy

Janove provides many examples of Star Profiles in his book. By creating and referring to this profile it helps the CEO hire and monitor specific behaviors desired in an effective leadership team member.

Definition of a Star Profile – It is a concise, action-oriented word picture capturing a manager’s or an executive’s vision of success for a particular job, department, or work function. A star profile is neither a wish list nor a blueprint. It centers on the what and the why, not the how. A star who fits a profile is not necessarily a superstar like Tiger Woods. Rather, a star is someone who passes the smile test; that is, visualizing them at work causes you to smile.

Make good hiring decisions: Why is this so hard? Many times we hire who we are comfortable with rather than having the ability to perform technically and build a cohesive team. If we hire who we like rather than what we need, the hiring process can be limiting the positive results for the organization.

When hiring I have heard statements such as these:

  • I think they will fit our feeling of family
  • I feel comfortable with this person

As a leader it is important to find out whether or not a candidate can do the job, build and be part of a team, and can grow professionally. As a school principal I have seen many times where a school would hire a great teacher as an assistant principal. Three months into the assistant principal role, the great teacher does not like the role or the duties. Now, you have lost a great teacher and have a good person whose heart is not in their new role.

What I have realized is that teaching and principal positions require different skill sets. Yes, there are teachers who can make the transition and are good at it. I have only had three people in over thirty years say at the end of the year, ‘I want to go back to teaching.’ Or, ‘I was happier being a teacher.’ Those three were happier the next year returning to the classroom.

Another issue that sometimes happens is confusing ‘getting the job’ with ‘doing the job.’ Many people get coached for or are extremely prepared to interview. That is why having scenarios, problems to solve, and experiences are important to ferret out during the interview process.

Recently, when coaching leaders in a restaurant chain who wanted to bring on another lead supervisor, we created scenarios for the applicants to respond to. You may want to do this as well to find out how applicants might solve ongoing issues at your site. You can also find out what disasters they have dealt with in their professional life and what they learned from it.

The combination of a well-defined profile and a candidate’s vision of herself fulfilling its characteristics can be the ultimate persuader. In another example was a person who wanted a promotion. Using the Star Profile, explaining point by point, and getting the internal candidates reaction resulted in the candidate saying, ‘that really isn’t what I want to do. I don’t think I should be in that position.’ Fortunately, the internal candidate was perfectly suited for another open position later that year and was promoted.

In an example from the book – Gen. George Patton problem – “According to military historians, though Patton was a highly effective WWII army commander, he lacked the diplomatic and communicative skills necessary for the job he desired, Supreme Allied Commander. That position went to Dwight D. Eisenhower.

I have found the Star Profile makes evaluation against this standard much easier and more focused. I really like the following process, too: “DISing” Employees -‘DIS” employees to avoid disrespecting, or in street jargon, “dissing” them. DIS means being direct, immediate, and specific when discussing performance with employ. DISing means connecting employee behavior to star profile characteristics.

Another great strategy Janove writes about is The Same-Day Summary. This helps follow-through and follow-up. Creating a same-day summary and sending it to the person(s) that were in the meeting helps clarity. It is easy to reference in the future when there is a discrepancy of what happened in the meeting. It also can be used effectively to provide those who may have missed the meeting about what occurred.

This strategy is very important when managing a direct report who may not be performing at the level needed. The Same Day Summary keeps a record of required future actions and recommended improvement plans. Even in the best barrels, some apples go bad. When faced with such employees, you might ask yourself, “How can I possibly expect star profile behavior when I’m saddled with such non-stars?’

There are three basic answers to this important question.

  • Many negative supervisor-employee relationships exist because of the way employees are being managed or mismanaged.
  • Even when progress is not that easy, the combination of a star profile and good corrective action steps can create optimal conditions for redirecting wayward employees.
  • Even when such steps are not effective and the employment relationship must end, a star profile approach to discipline and discharge respects the dignity of the employee more than most approaches.

Leadership is becoming more and more important in our VUCA world. “Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating the talents of those who work for us and pointing them to a certain goal.” –Walt Disney

You may be wondering why a star profile is so important. Here are the reasons given:

  1. We owe it to you to make it as clear as we can what is most important about your job and why this is so.
  2. We believe our using this profile will make your contributions even more valuable because it will help both of us stay focused on the most important things.
  3. This profile will help give us the opportunity to enjoy a working relationship that is mutually satisfying and rewarding, and one in which you can count on my loyalty and being your biggest fan.

Synchronizing with Performance Appraisals – Performance appraisals and profiles certainly can coexist, although star profiles work best when supervisors don’t assign grades, or relative subjective rankings, to their employees.

You should have only three categories.

  •  Star – someone who achieves profile characteristics.
  • Superstar – someone whose performance or results so far exceed expectation that special recognition is warranted.
  • Problem – someone for whom there is a substantial gap between profile characteristics and actual performance or conduct.

The process does not begin and end with “Here’s your annual performance evaluation—now go.

Try Star Profiles and the strategies in this book. It might foster communication, collaboration and the courage to lead. “If no one ever took risks, Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor.” –Neil Simon


Amabile, Teresa, & Kramer, Steven. (2011). The Progress Principle. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Edmondson, Amy. (2019). The Fearless Organization. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.

Pink, D. (2009). Drive. London: Riverhead Books.