Janove developed the "Star Profile" to provide a basis for mutual understanding between direct reports and their supervisors. One of its benefits, outlined in Janove's recently released book, The Star Profile, is that it helps management avoid dreaded "Peter Principle" promotions.
Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull's 1968 book, The Peter Principle, theorized that, "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." And they offered a disturbing corollary: In time, every job tends to be filled by an employee who is incompetent to carry out his or her duties.
To fight against that not-unlikely possibility, Janove offers the Star Profile, essentially a statement that captures—in 100 words or less—what's most important in a supervisor-employee relationship. It goes to the heart of managers’ or executives’ performance expectations and creates a concise picture of what it takes to succeed in a particular job, department, or work function.
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It's very natural to fall into the Peter Principle trap, Janove says, because, at first glance, it's logical: You need someone to manage your engineers? You pick your smartest, hardest-working engineer. If you need a sales manager, who do you pick? Your number one salesperson.
Management tends to equate ability to do a job with the ability to manage that job, says Janove. Unfortunately, as victims of the Peter Principle can attest, the one does not necessarily follow from the other.
To illustrate how a star profile approach can help, Janove poses a hypothetical case: Assume that you are the director of sales and need a new sales manager. You want to promote from within. If you're a Peter Principle manager, you'll just promote the best salesperson. However, says Janove, if you use the Star Profiles below, here's what happens:
Assume that Sara produces the highest sales numbers. She works her pipeline untiringly and is your most effective closer. Yet, as is true of many brilliant salespeople, her paperwork often leaves something to be desired.
This deficiency, abetted by Sara's top-salespeople-don't-do-paperwork attitude, periodically leads to conflicts with accounting and customer service.
Now, compare Sara's behavior with the sales manager star profile. That reveals a problem. Sara's intense focus on the next deal makes her a valuable salesperson, but it raises red flags when you consider her for a position that requires her to coach others, and to create a positive team spirit among the sales staff and employees in the other departments with which sales interfaces, Janove says.
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By contrast, he notes, Mike does not produce sales at Sara's rate. But he does place a great value on relations with other employees and other departments and he shows more interest in the bigger picture. You believe his behavior is a better match with the characteristics of the sales manager's profile, and he gets the promotion.
By taking the Star Profile approach, says Janove, you avoid the Peter Principle. But what about Sara's expectations? She had the best numbers, so why didn't she get the promotion? In tomorrow's Advisor, we'll answer that question and learn how to handle another tough comp question—how to handle the "no raise this year" talk.
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