The Star Profile

Dear Coach,

What is a Star Profile and how do you use it?



Dear Bob,

The Star Profile has proved to be one of my most effective tools when coaching organization leaders. I’m happy to share it.

What is a Star Profile?

In a small handful of sentences and words, a Star Profile captures the most needed behaviors or actions in a particular job from the perspective of key stakeholders. It’s not a traditional job description and it’s not a statement of qualifications, conditions, or competencies. It’s a mini-movie script of actual actions that will lead the movie-goer to say, “Yes! I really like this picture!”

Star Profiles aren’t performance-centric. They’re relationship-centric. Employee performance isn’t the end; it’s a means to a mutually satisfying and successful workplace relationship.

When I help a leader create Star Profiles for his/her reports, we start with my generic model. It covers the three categories that most likely will distinguish success from failure.

  • Productivity: Produces high quality and quantity work, aligned with the most desired results.
  • Reliability: Can be counted on to be where and when needed; reachable and responsive.
  • Culture: Supports a culture grounded in mutual respect, professionalism, and collaboration.

We then customize the generic model for the specific position to zero in on what matters most. Here are two examples.

Employee Selection

A Star Profile goes a long way to disable the “Stupid Switch.” It goes on whenever you confuse a candidate’s ability to get a job with the candidate’s ability to do a job; or when you confuse the employee’s ability to do the current job with the employee’s ability to do the new job.

I coached a chief operating officer (COO) who was tasked with hiring a VP-HR, a position that was new at his rapidly growing company. Historically, the COO was no fan of the HR profession. However, we were able to craft the following Star Profile:

Vice President, Human Resources

  • Becomes a trusted coach to our leaders to maximize human capital.
  • Keeps us compliant without creating a bureaucracy.
  • Has my back, especially when telling me I’m wrong.

This Star Profile captured what had previously bothered him about HR and what he saw as the potential for HR to add real organizational value.

After an initial hiccup, the Star Profile led to a long-term win-win relationship with the COO, the VP-HR, and the company. You can read more about this story here.

Performance Management

When I became office managing shareholder in a large international law firm, I succeeded someone with a very different management style. My predecessor pretty much did all of the thinking and oversaw all of the details. The office administrator (OA) simply followed orders.

I desired something close to the opposite: an OA to whom I could delegate office management responsibilities early, often and to the greatest degree possible. This meant a huge change for the incumbent OA.

I crafted the following Star Profile:

  • Leads and models professional, productive, and team-oriented office behavior.
  • Anticipates, troubleshoots, follows up and follows through with office, staff, attorney, and home office needs.
  • Loops me in efficiently.

As I explained, each sentence reflected the behaviors or actions I most desired from the OA. I needed someone who would promote a healthy office culture; proactively prevent and solve problems arising with the office, staff, attorneys, and our home office; and figure out when and how I needed to be informed and when I didn’t. Our discussion of these three sentences went beyond the “what” of the job to the “why.” It helped her understand the big picture – the vision and goals underlying each star profile sentence, and how she could play a pivotal role in my success as managing shareholder.

This profile became the basis of performance management going forward. You can read more about this story here. You can also find more examples in my book, Hard-Won Wisdom: True Stories from the Management Trenches (HarperCollins 2017.)

Special Offer:

In the spirit of Marshall Goldsmith’s commitment to “Pay It Forward,” if you are an MGSCC coach who aspires to use the Star Profile in your coaching work, let us know at We will select a cohort group of no more than five people. For no fee, I will take the group through the Star Profile creation and implementation process, and I will provide follow-up coaching as needed.



Jathan Janove is a Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching Master Coach and Practice Leader. You can learn more about him here. If you have a question you’d like him to address, please email us at


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