Vitality curves. Rank and yank. Fire the bottom ten percent. (Or, as some suggest, fire the next-to-bottom ten percent, too.) 

Hire fast, fire faster: Since no hiring process is ever perfect, firing people the moment they appear to be dead weight instead of superstars. As the American Management Association says, "Selecting a bad hire is understandable; but accepting it and not doing anything about it will cost an organization greatly."

Or to quote a number of startup founders I know, "If you don't want to fire people you shouldn't be an entrepreneur."

So yeah: It makes sense to move on when someone doesn't immediately "cut it."

But not always. 

Sometimes seeing the good in other people -- before they see it in themselves -- provides the spark that helps them reach their true potential.

Phoenix, then five years old, was taking his belt test at a karate studio in Orlando. The last step in the test was to break a board with an axe kick. All the other students had passed the test.

As the video below shows, Phoenix's first attempt was (if I can say this about a five year-old) less than stout; he fell down and started to tear up. His next attempt was no better. Nor was the next, prompting full-on tears. He was melting down fast; he clearly didn't posses the strength or skill or determination required to get the job done.

But his sensei doesn't give up on him -- and instead of just urging him on, helped Phoenix reset himself by reinforcing the technique and correcting his stance. And he gave the other students time -- and more importantly, permission -- to encourage Phoenix as well.

When rank and yank is the order of the day and people who struggle are soon gone... why waste time encouraging a coworker, much less providing support?

The next kick was better, and the kick after that broke the board.

Phoenix passed. He just needed a little re-training -- and support and encouragement from his "boss" and his "coworkers." 

Think about it. Everyone, even relatively poor performers, does something well. That's why everyone deserves praise and appreciation. 

It's easy for most of us to recognize great employees; after all, they do great things. (Of course it's possible that consistent praise is one of the reasons they became great.)

Relatively few people try to find reasons to praise a person who simply meets standards, even though a few words of recognition -- especially when that recognition is publicly given -- could just be the nudge that inspires an average performer to become a great performer.

Even fewer try to find reasons to encourage and praise a person who isn't meeting standards, even though a few words of public recognition could be the nudge that makes all the difference.

Most people don't try to under-perform. Most people don't try to do a poor job. In almost every case, something is missing. A little extra training. A little extra encouragement.

And even a little extra help. Watch the sense's hands when Phoenix breaks the board; he was torquing the edges to create counter-force and make it easier for Phoenix to split the board.

His sensei didn't just want Phoenix to succeed. Without making it obvious, he actively helped him succeed.

Because success breeds confidence, and confidence breeds further success.

A virtuous cycle that can never happen when you fire too fast.