MANY businessmen and managers spend too much time trying to change employees who under-perform.

They falsely believe that they can entice an employee to improve on his performance with additional training or even a threat of dismissal.

The successful manager concentrates on developing the strengths of his team members and not trying to correct their weaknesses. Sometimes you have to work round a weakness, but you cannot change people into what they are not.

If you have a salesman on your team who is not bringing in the sales or a production engineer who is not hitting his quota, then you have to decide what to do with him.

An employee may try to convince you of his capabilities because he is unwilling to accept defeat but many people are in the wrong jobs and industries. Ask yourself: Is this person not producing results because he does not have the ability that can be resolved with more training? Or is there another reason behind his poor performance?

It is important to recognise that the individual simply cannot do the job. What you need to do is assign duties in areas where they can produce results or get them out of your team.

Body of evidence

In my past managerial experiences, I inherited team members who did not have what it takes to do their job. When I take over a new team, I usually categorise my subordinates into groups.

The first group consists of the "good guys". They are the ones who can do the job and not cause me any hassle.

The second group consists of people who need a bit of looking after, watching closely and definitely require some coaching.

The third group comprises employees who do not have either the skills or the characteristics to do the job. No amount of training or pep talks can change that. I often find that that these people are dissatisfied with their jobs and more than happy to be transferred.

This may not be easy but a manager needs to address these issues for the good of the team and the business. It is vital to give your people feedback on their strengths and their weaknesses. However, these should only be weaknesses that you know the individual can do something about.

Do not waste your time and effort trying to work on weaknesses that cannot be sorted. Accepting that some people cannot build relationships with customers or cannot work as fast as they are required may be better in the long run.

To be productive, provide feedback on strengths and how they can be developed even further. Many managers spend most of their time with team members trying to resolve their weaknesses and have little time to point out their strengths, which is more critical.