Mastering the SBI feedback framework for your company

Mastering the SBI feedback framework for your company

There are quite a few communication techniques that can be used in a business context. Some of them are designed to convince external stakeholders but others focus on internal
communication in an effort of continuous improvement on both individual and collective scale. This is the case of the Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) model, an effective feedback framework. Let’s see how it works: first with its general principles, and then in its finer details to see how you can use it in other circumstances than the occasional feedback session.

Product Manager – Coachyz
In this article
SBI feedback framework for your company

Understanding the SBI Feedback Model

What is the SBI feedback method?

The SBI feedback model or SBI feedback tool, was developed by the Center for Creative Leadership, it is a registered trademark of this company. In essence it is a structured method for delivering feedback at the right moment.

Indeed, more often than not, team managers and leaders tend to give insufficient feedback if any at all, because they view it as a touchy topic and they don’t know how to bring it up. SBI aims at helping managers to address these issues in 3 steps, which we will break down a bit further on.

This framework has numerous advantages, the main three being:

  1. Clarity in communication: feedback is delivered directly which leaves less room for misunderstandings as each point is clearly articulated.
  2. Fostering collaboration: open dialogue and collaborative goal-setting are encouraged through discussions on behavior improvement. Offering a neutral framework for evaluating behavior allows both parties to collaboratively develop improvement plans.
  3. Actionable insights: Unlike vague feedback, the SBI model offers actionable guidance by focusing on measurable, observable, and objective examples.
sbi main benefits

In turn, these main benefits have the following positive consequences:

  • by focusing on specific behaviors and their consequences rather than resorting to personal critique, constructive dialogues are initiated, motivating employees to enhance their effectiveness;
  • since everyone is clear on other people’s intentions and outcomes, the gap between perception and reality is bridged ;
  • it establishes a virtuous circle where managers are encouraged to engage in conversations and employees to understand what they are doing well and what they need to adjust.

The SBI tool can be used for both positive and negative feedback, as long as it is constructive feedback.

What does SBI stand for?

SBI is an abbreviation for Situation Behavior Impact. Each of these terms being one of the key elements to consider, in that order, to properly use the framework when delivering feedback.

sbi key elements

1. Situation

First things first: if you want to provide effective feedback, context matters. Your employee/team member needs to know what specific situation you are referring to, in other words when the behavior occurred and in which circumstances. This way, they can better grasp the context in which the feedback is provided and visualize the scenario accurately.

You want to avoid ambiguous formulations such as “on several occasions” or “in a team meeting”. Be specific, give dates, meaningful details to help them recall the event. Don’t base your feedback on vague impressions but rather on hard facts.

Example: During last Monday’s kick-off meeting, as Mark was doing his presentation…

2. Behavior

As the name suggests it, the second step of the Situation-Behavior-Impact model is Behavior. Here, your goal is to focus on the actions or conduct which are the very reason for you giving the feedback to your team member.

Just like in step 1, if you want the feedback to yield results, you need to remain clear and objective in your communication: don’t insert personal judgments or assumptions about the behaviors being addressed.

This often proves a challenge as you need to strive for objectivity in your assessment while basing yourself on personal observations (don’t give credit to hearsay). Subjective biases are always around the corner and it is virtually impossible to keep them all at bay. But try your best to maintain impartiality and use as measurable information as possible.

Example: “… as Mark was doing his presentation, you were not paying attention” instead of “you didn’t care at all”. The first assertion is factual but the second introduces subjective interpretation.

3. Impact

In this final step of the SBI feedback model, the goal is to convey the impact of the behavior, whether positive or negative, on you, the other team members or the organization as a whole. This is done by describing factual outcomes but you now add a dose of subjectivity to the mix: express genuine feelings be it pride or concern, with “I” or “We” sentences. Do everything you can not to come across as judgmental, because if you do the other person might focus on that and the message you are trying to pass will be lost on them.

Don’t hesitate to pinpoint who was affected by the behavior and how they were affected. It ensures that the feedback resonates with the individual and fosters a culture of continuous improvement within the team or organization.

Example: “… you were not paying attention. It made Mark feel disheartened as he put a lot of time and effort into it and I felt worried since your work is directly tied to the content of this presentation.”

You can go further by inquiring about intent and therefore engaging in a two-way conversation, which is always better on all accounts. Indeed, by inviting them to share their perspective, you can gain insights into the reasons behind their behavior and address any underlying issues they may be experiencing. This makes for mutual understanding and positive solutions rather than playing the blame game.

How to refine the SBI Feedback approach?

Now that you know the main guidelines of the framework, here are a few tips to further handle any SBI Feedback conversation and to make sure everything goes according to plan. While the previous three-steps structure is an all-rounder, the following structure might come in handy in more complex and systemic feedback reports, a performance review for instance. In any case, the general guidelines also apply here: stick to the facts as much as possible, avoid judgment, explain impact and try to come up with collaborative action plans.

Clarify the goal of the discussion

Begin by clearly defining the purpose of the feedback conversation:

  • What specific objectives does each participant aim to achieve?
  • Based on the answer to the previous question, what will be the main talking points of the discussion?
  • Are we both clear and OK on that?

Example: what your employee aims to achieve is identifying areas for improvement and devising a plan for professional growth. As for you, you intend to provide constructive feedback to support their development, maybe explore options to help them improve their pitch with storytelling.

Explore the issues & identify options

Then, dive into a comprehensive assessment of various factors including strengths, weaknesses, areas for development, and overall performance. Take the opportunity to delve into the individual’s motivations, career aspirations, and any challenges they may be facing.

This step lays the groundwork for a thorough understanding of the situation and facilitates constructive dialogue.

Example: you come to understand that they would be interested to evolve to a leadership role but that they lack training in non violent communication.

As it is a more general scope than the punctual feedback session, it can be tempting to base your assessment on impressions and vague memories. However, it is crucial that you don’t: if you abandon facts, everything becomes less accurate and thus loses a lot of impact. You need to be able to pinpoint specific behaviors to remain credible.

After the issues, it is time to brainstorm potential solutions. Encourage creativity and open-mindedness, use active listening as you explore different approaches to addressing the identified issues. Generating a range of options increases the likelihood of finding effective strategies for improvement.

Handling defensive reactions

Define clear expectations regarding the next steps to be taken. Discuss priorities, timelines, and potential obstacles that may need to be overcome. By establishing a shared understanding of what needs to be done and how, you pave the way for successful implementation of the feedback received.

You may encounter resistance and defensive mechanisms from your team member, then offer rational observations and solutions to help them overcome those concerns.

For instance, your head of IT fears they will not be able to meet the additional objectives in their already limited time-frame. You reassure them by showing them that they have already met those objectives and that it is a corporate decision that your branch has already been actually implementing for months.

Motivation and collaborative plan

Assess the level of support needed to achieve the established goals. Ensure that the objectives are meaningful and relevant to the individual’s growth and development. Offer assistance and encouragement where necessary, and explore ways to maintain motivation and momentum throughout the process.

Finally, develop a concrete plan outlining specific actions and milestones to track progress. Determine how progress will be measured and evaluated to ensure that goals are being met effectively. By establishing a clear plan of action, you provide a framework for accountability and success moving forward.

An example of actionable measure would be training about binary questions, to improve their communication skills when talking to clients.

The SBI Feedback model can easily be transposed from a company to another. The variable factor is more the objectives that you are trying to attain or to put it simply, the scope of the feedback session. The general approach works in all contexts but when dealing with long-term growth and role within the organization, some adjustments are needed.

At CoachYZ, we firmly believe that every leader and team manager possesses a dormant potential waiting to be awakened. By embracing new viewpoints and dedicating to self-improvement, anyone can unleash this hidden potential. If our philosophy resonates with you and if you desire to enhance your leadership skills, embark on your coaching journey with us!

Mastering the SBI feedback framework for your company
Product Manager – Coachyz

Coaching remains an essential tool in our toolbox, despite the ever-changing professional world. In the digital age, our approach has evolved from simply informing journalists to delivering rich, engaging content directly to our target audience. Good coaching must be personalized, relevant and adapted to the digital world to ensure optimal online visibility. What’s more, the incorporation of multimedia supports such as videos, images and interactive links can considerably enhance its impact. 

In this article


SBI stands for Situation-Behavior-Impact, the three key elements to consider then explain to your counterpart when you are providing them feedback. First, you give them context, the factual data of when and where it happened, then you give non-judgmental details of the negative or positive behavior you want to discuss, finally you explain the consequences on
you, other team members or the organization as a whole.

The Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) feedback model offers several advantages. Firstly, its structured format provides clarity for both you and the other person. Secondly, the model encourages specific observations of behavior and their corresponding impact, which makes it easier to decide on an action plan for improvement. Thirdly, SBI feedback promotes a constructive and non-confrontational approach, which is perfect for setting up open communication and continuous development within your team. Lastly, its simplicity makes it accessible and easy to implement across various organizational levels and contexts.

The core of feedback within the SBI (Situation-Behavior-Impact) model is anchored by the “Behavior” element. This aspect pertains to the specific actions, behaviors, or conduct demonstrated by an individual in a particular situation. Describing and pinpointing these observed behaviors forms the basis of constructive feedback within the SBI framework. By concentrating on behaviors rather than generalizations or assumptions, feedback becomes more objective, actionable, and beneficial for positive development and improvement.

Our most recent articles