Difficult conversations, constructive criticism, feedback and performance reviews. These are all things that make millennial managers cringe. After interviewing hundreds of millennial managers, we discovered this was the aspect they struggled with the most. Delivering difficult feedback is tough for anyone, but millennials, especially, have a tricky time with it.

As a millennial, you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and maybe you fear your employees might be defensive, take things personally or get discouraged. This generation likes to collaborate and get along. But as a manager, you need to hold your team accountable and you must have the managerial courage to say the things that need to be said. You aren't doing your employees a favor by not addressing the areas of growth head on.

In our book, Manager 3.0: A Millennial's Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management, my co-author Brad Karsh and I share a few different stories to help you feel more comfortable delivering feedback.

The spinach story: If you have a piece of spinach stuck between your teeth, would you like for someone to tell you? Or would you rather that no one say anything and you go the entire day with a green hunk of spinach spilling from your smile? I think it's safe to say that most people want to know. But isn't it a little difficult to tell someone they have something stuck in their teeth? This is just like feedback. Although it may seem a little uncomfortable to share feedback, your employee wants to know.

The Mrs. Stanley story: Mrs. Stanley was my middle school English teacher. Mrs. Stanley was tough, and she didn't let anything slide. You'd better mind your split infinitives, comma splices and dangling participles, or the red pen would adorn your paper. However, Mrs. Stanley gave constructive criticism all the time because she wanted her students to be great. She knew being easy on her students would not prepare them for high school or college. She challenged students, pushed them and even had them believe they could be authors one day. That is the type of manager you want to be. Even though it takes courage to push for excellence, it truly will help your team grow and develop.


Tough love

Most memorable mentors and managers are those who really pushed us and didn't let us just get by. Often, we learn the most from the people who expect the most from us. Be that manager. Don't settle for mediocrity. Don't be afraid to sit down and have a tough conversation. The majority of the time, those conversations end with, "I'm so glad we talked."

Be direct, sincere and specific, so your employees truly know how they can improve or do things differently. Make it clear that you're sharing your insights and perspective because you want them to grow and develop in their career.

Next time you're debating whether or not you should deliver constructive criticism, remember the spinach story and the Mrs. Stanley story. Your employees want to know, and you can help your team get from good to great. Have the managerial courage to take a stand, communicate and set high standards, and you will have a powerful and positive effect on your people.

Templin is co-author of Manager 3.0: A Millennial's Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management.

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