When you’re a leader, you can’t be afraid of confrontation. Part of your job is making sure that everyone else is doing their job correctly—and if there’s an issue on your team, it’s up to you to address it.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do that, however, and when it comes time to offer feedback, it’s important to be thoughtful in your approach. The purpose of feedback is to be constructive—to provide scaffolding on which your team members can build better skills and higher achievements. When offered carelessly, however, feedback can simply come across as critical, mean, or rude—all of which can squash confidence and creativity and lower your team’s morale.

The question is, how can leaders ensure that the feedback they offer is genuinely productive, not just critical? Here are a few strategies to keep in mind:

  • Constructive feedback is specific. Telling someone that’s bad isn’t helpful, and in fact it’s not even feedback; it’s just nastiness. Real feedback hones in on something specific, and offers a benchmark that is both measurable and achievable. Give your team members a target to aim for, and a timeline to achieve it.
  • Constructive feedback is private. Your aim should never be to punish or to embarrass, even if a team member has made a big error. A good rule of thumb is to always praise publicly and critique privately. You may consider following up on your private meetings with something written—a quick email reminder of the feedback you offered and the goals you laid out for the team member. The point here is simply to ensure that the employee doesn’t forget, which is an easy thing to do!
  • Constructive feedback is not personal. Saying that a presentation is poorly organized is fine; saying that the person is disorganized is not. Constructive feedback focuses on a concrete situation, not on the traits of the individual.
  • Constructive feedback is continuous. Don’t offer a critique and then forget it; make sure that you follow up, and that you make sure the team member knows his or her efforts are not being overlooked. Feedback is a process, and the more you invest in it, the more likely it is to yield the desired effect.

Great leaders are unafraid to offer feedback, and in fact they know that feedback is a true gift—so long as it’s offered in the right spirit, with the right specificity, and with the right level of follow-through.

This article was originally posted on RickGoodman.com.