If you are like many businesses, you may have a couple poor employees — consistently under-performing.

Some would suggest that they need to be pruned in order for the business to remain healthy and grow. Philosophically I agree — however, before pruning ask yourself why they are under-performing. Here are a couple thoughts for consideration.

Is it because they are a round peg in a square hole. Do they have all the character elements but yet still aren’t successful in their role. Maybe you need to consider a change in role to one where some of their strengths may have the opportunity to shine.

I once had a team member who had all the character elements but just wasn’t succeeding in the marketing area. His attention to detail wasn’t strong, which was fundamental when proofing ads and hitting deadlines. So we moved him into a sales role where he had administrative support. Because of his character and personality, he quickly rose to become one of the top performers in that new role. If we had pruned too early, we would have lost a valuable asset and who knows what we would have gotten in return. If they have the right character — look for a win. Remember, most skills can be taught.

Or perhaps they made an error at a critical time. Maybe they failed to hit a deadline or blew a key initiative — resulting in a loss of confidence. The residual effect over time, is that fellow employees will see them as a weak link. Possibly you will too.

Ask yourself what it would take to rehabilitate that team member. Remember, at one time they were considered a valuable member of the team, but once they have fallen from grace, it may be too much for them to get back on track on their own.

What can you do as a leader to help lift them up? If they are worth saving, how could you help them become successful again. Maybe a special assignment that leverages their strengths. Maybe they just need a show of confidence from the key leader to help them over the hump and let others take notice of your faith. This doesn’t mean you lower your standards or expectations — maybe just a little personal coaching to get them over the rough spot.

My Perspective: Before you prune, make sure that is the best step.

The key thing to remember is that at one time virtually every employee was deemed to be a good fit — that’s why they were hired in the first place. So before you take the harsh step of pruning — look for the upside.

After all, if you spent time working to improve a high performer, you might get a little incremental improvement. However, if you can help a poor performer become a high performer — think of the positive impact on the organization and the time saved to find a new person to replace them.

Then if it still doesn’t work, when you prune you will know you have given them the best of yourself¬† personally — and that is a sign of a great leader.