Q: I have a member of staff who is under-performing. I believe he can still make the grade but he needs to hear some less than flattering feedback. What is the best way to do this without damaging his self-esteem?

A: Be tough and very very clear. You sound as if you want to help him so this is not the time for niceties or euphemisms.

First of all separate the behaviour from the person so he can find ways to improve rather than the impossible task of changing his personality. Ensure that he knows what he is walking into so that he is prepared: it is not professional to ask him to pop into your office on a Friday afternoon and give it to him between the eyes.

I am often surprised how little preparation a boss makes before such a meeting. There should be specific examples of work, dated and detailed. Vagueness is a lazy tool and no help whatsoever. Give him examples of how to improve and again be very specific. It amazes me when I speak to clients who tell me they have given "X" a rollicking, yet they are unable to answer the basic question "so what does he have to do to improve and by when?"

This isn't rocket science. Be tough, clear and concise and he will respect you for it.

Q: One of my regional buyers keeps threatening to leave whenever a decision goes against him. It takes a considerable amount of management time persuading him to remain and to convince him how valued he is. However, in the past few months I feel I have avoided making difficult decisions in order to avoid the inevitable World War 3 scenario with him throwing his toys out of the pram. What should I do?

A: I suspect you know the answer already. Let him go, and in fact I would put it even more strongly, make him go as soon as possible. Life is difficult enough today to keep the team's momentum moving forwards without one of the team playing the big "I am".

It's not good for you, your team or your organisation to allow this prima donna to absorb your time. You have a responsibility as team leader and now is the time to act.

You tell me he is really good with customers, I would say to you that he probably has the same mentality with them as he does with you.

Put one of your up-and-coming stars into his shoes and prepare to be amazed how a different face/personality can dramatically change the buying/selling dynamics.

Do what you know you should have done and stop wasting time.

If you have a question for Sue, email her at sue@mountstevensexecutivecoaching.com.