#29 No FEAR Performance Review

Most people dread giving and receiving performance reviews. The process is painful and does not produce good results. Jathan Janove has created a 3-step alternative, published by SHRM, the Society for Human Resources Management*.

Step One: Craft a Star Profile (SP) for each position reporting to you. This is not the job description, but it can draw key components from a current job description. Have a real-time conversation with each employee about what you wrote and why. When review time comes (I’m partial to 90-day intervals), the SP will anchor the discussion.

Step Two: In the review discussion, use the No-FEAR technique. Your Frame is a candid, succinct summation of how the employee has done with respect to each prong of the Star Profile. (I recommend taking one prong at a time.) Then switch to active listening (EAR). The discussion will include both feedback (what happened) and what Marshall Goldsmith calls "feedforward" (expected future action). Use this discussion as an opportunity to celebrate successes and accomplishments, as well as to constructively address developmental needs.

Step Three: The last step is the Same Day Summary (SDS) that you’ll write and give to the employee. It captures what you consider to be the key takeaways from the discussion you just had. This is a great tool for every important discussion you have with your employee, including the performance discussion.

An Example

Let’s assume I’m an HR director whose direct reports include HR business partners (BPs) who work directly with company managers and employees. Here’s what my SP might look like:

  • Maintains a thorough working understanding of applicable human resources-related laws, regulations, and policies.
  • Works with our managers and employees primarily as a coach, not a cop.
  • Collaboratively supports fellow members of our HR team.

Prior to the performance review, I will have met with each of my Business Partners to discuss the Star Profile and ensure a shared understanding of what’s most important.

When review time comes, I will employ a technique developed by Goldsmith for Stakeholder Centered Coaching that I call the 3-3-1 assessment. I’ll confidentially ask a representative sample of managers, employees and members of the HR department what they think the Business Partner has done well regarding the Star Profile and what practical improvement suggestions they have for moving forward.

Next, I will meet with each of my Business Partners and review how they’ve done using the No-FEAR methods described above. Lastly, I’ll write a Same Day Summary for each meeting and preserve it for future review and discussion. Here’s an example:

To: BP Sarah

From: Jathan

Today’s date: ___________

Re: Summary of Q1 2023 performance discussion

Hi Sarah,

Here’s a summary of key takeaways from our conversation this morning. Please let me know if I missed anything.

  • Regarding the first sentence of your Star Profile, all parties agree you that you have maintained a solid understanding of applicable law and policy. To keep yourself up-to-date, you plan to attend the online program "Employment Law for HR Professionals." I expressed my encouragement that you continue to seek out these types of opportunities.
  • Regarding the second sentence, we discussed that although your goal is to be seen as a coach, you are sometimes perceived as more of a "cop." You and I agreed to spend more time together doing some role-plays on how to effectively blend compliance with coaching in your interactions with managers and employees. Also, we talked about you benefitting from additional training in coaching and that we’ll work on this moving forward.
  • As for the third sentence, everyone considers you to be a great team player who’s always willing to lend a hand. As I said, I personally appreciate and am grateful for the wonderful service you provide!



* * * * * *


This performance review process has several key advantages:

  • It’s efficient and user-friendly, which lends itself to being done more often than annually.
  • It promotes constructive candor. The focus is on progress and solutions, not finger-pointing.
  • There’s no money involved (bonus or pay increase), as money tends to skew things in the wrong direction. The focus remains on the needs of the job and on the relationship.
  • Above all, the process says, "I may be your boss, yet in reality I’m your partner and coach as we work together to make this organization a better place."

Jathan Janove is a former state bar "Employment Law Attorney of the Year," author of Hard-Won Wisdom: True Stories from the Management Trenches (HarperCollins, 2017), Master Coach & Practice Leader with Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching, and faculty member, University of California San Diego Masters Series.



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