It's a common fear. But you have to get over it to be a great leader.

Few managers are comfortable giving their employees feedback, but frank conversations are critical for employees' growth, Melody Wilding writes for Quartz.

And employees want leaders who take interest in their professional growth. More than 40% of both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers—and nearly 60% of millennials—say growth opportunities are one of the most important things they look for in a job.

Avoiding feedback is a double-edged sword. Without consistent, constructive feedback, employees are more likely to feel disengaged and unsupported at work. For leaders, delaying confrontation can dampen your confidence levels and hurt your team's performance, Wilding writes.

Pulling from her experience a leadership coach, Wilding outlines the steps leaders can take to get over their fear of feedback.

Step 1: Challenge your assumptions

Leaders who avoid giving feedback may worry that confrontation will damage their working relationships, Wilding writes. But being assertive and transparent doesn't automatically make you a "difficult manager," she argues.

Instead of jumping to a worse-case-scenario, envision what you and your team stand to gain from improved performance, she recommends.

Step 2: Use feedback to empower

Constructive criticism signals your investment in your employees' professional development, Wilding writes. Thoughtful feedback can motivate and inspire employees to develop a growth mindset.

Step 3: Start a dialogue

When delivering feedback, approach the conversation as a two-way dialogue. If you listen and validate their concerns, your employees will likely be more receptive to criticism, she adds. Using "I" statements and being specific can also put you and your employee at ease.

Also see: 10 boss habits most likely to make your employees quite, ranked

Step 4: Make feedback a ritual

If you delay confrontation to yearly performance reviews, you risk letting the issues worsen. Instead, give feedback in lower-stakes, everyday scenarios to build your confidence leading those conversations, she recommends. Routine feedback can come in weekly check-ins or other regular communication channels, she writes.

Leaders should remember that positive feedback is important too. About 37% of managers avoid giving positive feedback likely because they underestimate the power of positive reinforcement, according to a study.

Just like constructive criticism, positive feedback that identifies a specific act and its effect on the wider team will be more effective. Expressing genuine gratitude is best done face-to-face, where you can exhibit a smile and other encouraging body language indicators (Wilding, Quartz, 2/1).

Read more: To retain top talent, managers matter


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