Give Productive Behavioural Feedback Using the SBI Model

Learn About the Situation Behaviour Impact (SBI) Model and How to Use it Effectively

Developed by the Centre for Creative Leadership, the SBI Model, or SBI Feedback Tool as it is sometimes known, outlines a simple structure, Situation – Behaviour – Impact, that you can use to give behavioural feedback.

When you structure feedback in this way, your people will understand precisely what you are commenting on, and why. And when you outline the impact of their behaviour on others, you’re giving them the chance to reflect on their actions, and think about what they need to do next time. The same, or something different.

The tool also helps you avoid making assumptions that could upset the other person and damage your relationship with them.

One of the biggest advantages that this feedback model/tool has over the other tools such as BOOST, idea, Hear, or Peer, is that SBI focuses on the impact with ‘I’. Impact feedback.

Too often feedback has been given like, ‘That’s great, thank you’. As a people manager saying thank you is good. It is even better if you say why. For example, ‘That’s great, thank you. It was good because the client loved it and will place another order’. If you tell people what they do well, they will do more of it.

Applying the SBI Feedback Model

Let’s look at each part of the SBI Feedback tool, and think about how to use it to structure feedback:

The SBI Feedback Model: Situation, Behaviour, Impact
The SBI Feedback Model: Situation, Behaviour, Impact

1. Situation

When you’re giving feedback, first define the where and when of the situation you’re referring to. This puts the feedback into context and gives the other person a specific setting as a reference.

For example:
  • ‘Yesterday’s KPI’s were up by 5% from the day before…’.
  • ‘During the evening shift today I noticed…’.
  • ‘Last week when you presented to the client…’.

2. Behaviour

Your next step is to describe the specific behaviours that you want to deal with. This is the most challenging part of the process because you must communicate only the behaviours that you observed directly. You must not make assumptions or judgments about those behaviours. These could be wrong, and this will undermine your feedback.

For example, if you observed that a colleague made a mistake, you should not assume that they hadn’t prepared thoroughly. You should simply comment that your colleague made mistakes and, ideally, you should note what the mistakes were. Don’t rely on hearsay or gossip, as this may contain other people’s judgments. Again, this could undermine your feedback and jeopardise your relationship.

The examples below include a description of behaviour:
  • ‘During yesterday morning’s meeting, when you talked about the night shift KPI’s, you were uncertain about why a line had a negative score, and your calculations were incorrect.’
  • ‘At the team meeting on Friday afternoon, you ensured that the meeting started on time and all your research was correct, and each of the managers’ questions was answered.’

Tip: Aim to use measurable information in your description of the behaviour. This helps to ensure that your comments are unbiased.

3. Impact

The last step is to use ‘I’ statements to describe how the other person’s action has affected you or others or performance.

SBI Feedback Model examples:
  • ‘During yesterday morning’s DRM, when you talked about the night shift KPI’s, you were uncertain about why a line had a negative score, and your calculations were incorrect. I felt a bit embarrassed because my manager was there. I’m worried that this has affected the reputation of our team.’
  • ‘At the team meeting on Friday afternoon, you ensured that the meeting started on time and all your research was correct, and each of the managers’ questions was answered. I’m proud that you did such an excellent job and put us in a good light. Keep up the great work!’.
  • ‘Last week you presented to the client and you pitched with such confidence that the client placed a second order. Well done’.

This is how the feedback example above is broken down for SBI:

  • Situation: ‘Last week you presented to the client…’
  • Behaviour: ‘…and you pitched with such confidence…’.
  • Impact: ‘…that the client placed a second order. Well done’.

Imagine that you recently gave some feedback to a member of your team. You told him, ‘Your KPI’s are great, but you need to improve your people skills’.

You follow up a few weeks later to find out why he hasn’t made any changes. Then, you discover that he didn’t understand what he could do to improve – your feedback simply prompted more questions. He was left thinking ‘What’s good about achieving the KPI’s and how can I do more?’ and ‘What’s wrong with my people skills?’.

Two business partners – conversation
Deliver more effective feedback by considering the situation, behaviour and impact.

The Situation – Behaviour – Impact (SBI) feedback model helps you deliver more effective feedback. It focuses your comments on specific situations and behaviours and then outlines the impact that these behaviours have on others.

The feedback becomes, ‘Last week at the senior management meeting you delivered some great KPI’s. Well done. This meant that we could meet the customer’s demands for that week. On a separate note, I read the feedback from the employee survey and you scored 67/100 from your team which means that you have the potential to lose some people. We don’t want that. What ideas do you have for improving this?’.

Next Steps

Once you’ve delivered your feedback, encourage the other person to think about the situation and to understand the impact of his or her behaviour. Allow the other person time to absorb what you have said, and then go over specific actions that will help them to improve. Also, where someone has done something well, help them think about how they can build on this.

Key Points to Remember

SBI stands for:

  1. Situation
  2. Behaviour
  3. Impact

To use the SBI Model, describe the ‘when’ and ‘where’ of the situation. Next, describe the other person’s behaviour, only mentioning the actions that you have observed. Then, communicate the impact of his or her behaviour on you and others.

Finally, discuss what your team member needs to do to change this behaviour in the future, or, if their behaviour had a positive impact, explore how they can build on this.


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