We are always in meetings, talking with people, bringing them together, connecting the dots, and giving feedback. I know how hard it is. Sometimes you think the meeting went well, and everyone knows the next steps, and voilá, in the next sync nothing actually happened. What you thought was going to be done, didn’t get done. You and your team weren’t on the same page.
The Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) model can help you to deliver more effective and better feedback because it focuses on specific behaviors or even situations. The SBI tool is a simple and direct tool that focuses on the impact certain actions will have.
In my opinion, the most interesting benefits are:
- Gives you a framework to follow when doing something as challenging as giving feedback.
- Helps you stay focused and avoid being judgmental about the situation that has happened.
It’s really common to create stories in our heads depending on the circumstances because of historical data you had, past experiences, and even your own sense of right and wrong. This is extremely dangerous because it frequently leads to you including your point of view in a lot of situations without even talking with the person and team members.
The great thing about SBI is that you can use it not only for negative feedback, but also for positive feedback and observations.
It might be more challenging for some people than others to give feedback and have clarifying conversations. Misinterpretations can hurt a team, a product, and/or a company. The impact can be so big and also unnecessary.
We need to start having difficult conversations and asking the right questions. And we also need to let people know about the impact of their work.
Let’s have uncomfortable conversations, clarify wrong assumptions, and avoid misperceptions as much as we can with our team members. We’ll talk more about the SBI framework that can help you during this process.
What Does SBI Mean?
SBI refers to the widely used Situation-Behavior-Impact model for delivering feedback. It can help you deliver better feedback while reducing anxiety and minimizing people taking feedback personally.
- [S] Situation: Describe the situation and the event that occurred in a specific and straight-forward manner. It is important to keep to the facts. Try to describe the behavior you’re seeing, and don’t include your judgments.
- [B] Behavior: Describe the behavior without judgments and without assuming you already know what they have in their mind. Start with curiosity rather than judging.
- [I] Impact: Describe your thinking or feeling about the behavior. Keep in mind how their actions have affected you or the team. Focus on information that can be measurable.
When Should I Use It?
In every situation you need to give feedback to a team member or team members. The SBI is a simple framework that can help you to do that free from judgments and preconceived ideas while keeping in mind the impact the feedback can make.
As this structure is super simple, the framework can help your team or stakeholders better understand the reason you’re giving the feedback and also the comments. It basically helps everyone to better understand and stay focused on the feedback.
Focusing on the impact of the behavior might help others to rethink their actions. This can be an opportunity that will make them reflect on their behaviors. It’s particularly useful because you’re giving feedback without judgment or making assumptions.
What are the Benefits of Using It?
Giving feedback is definitely not easy but so important, and it can bring people together to work towards the same goals and collaborate together because it encourages them not only to take the time to reflect, but also to improve.
How to Apply
Start asking about the when and where that specific situation happened. Don’t include a lot of different situations in the same bucket. Be specific, talk about one situation as clearly as possible. Then you’ll describe the behavior or action of the person. Again, stick to the facts of that specific situation and what you observed. Last, but not least, communicate the impact of that action on the team or that scenario. Make sure to discuss measurable ways to show the impact.
- Situation: Define where and when the situation happened. This is the first step, it’ll help to put this situation into context, and the person will understand the situation you’re referencing.
- Behavior: Describe the behaviors you want to address. Be straight to the point, and don’t include your own judgments or past experience. You’re describing a specific situation the way it happened, not previous ones.
- Impact: Talk about the effects of the behavior and the impact they’re causing to the person or team members. It should be measurable information that you described.
For example, when giving feedback to someone you manage or someone on your team, you could say, “ During our cross-functional meeting last Wednesday, I noticed, when asked, you couldn’t give more details about the questions related to our growth strategies. I wanted to hear from you what might cause that and what I can do to make you feel more comfortable speaking about our strategies. As you know, our priority is to scale this year, and it’s crucial for you to be able to speak with confidence about that.”
Ask About Their Intent
This is an interesting catch, and I recommend leaving it to the end. I think it’s important to talk about the intent since the end result sometimes is so different from the actions. At the same time, I believe the intent can be valid, but might need some further conversations and tweaks.
Ask about their intentions and motivations, ask about their whys, this will provide a more holistic understanding of the situation. They might not agree with your feedback or even the way you perceived the situation, or maybe they didn’t fully understand, but you can talk through it and hopefully have even more constructive conversations.
This can also be a good opportunity to talk about the future and situations where the behavior can happen again. Let’s mitigate the risks and talk more about them. Or if it was a positive behavior, let’s bring more of them.
- SBI stands for the Situation, Behavior, and Impact (framework) that can be used for negative and positive feedback delivered to the team or a team member.
- It’s a tool that helps team members and managers deliver better, clear, and action-oriented feedback.
- Keep in mind when and where the situation happened, try to be as specific as possible, and then describe the other person’s action or behavior. To finalize it, you’ll mention the impact of their actions.
- You should definitely use the SBI for positive feedback, making it even more powerful because the person will have a better idea of what happened, when, why and the impact that their action made.
- After the feedback was delivered using the SBI, you should encourage the team member to think more about the situation and ask questions. This is a moment to listen and clarify any misunderstandings.
- During the conversation, you can also talk about their intentions. Sometimes the intention is so different from the delivery, so I think it is also a good moment to talk it through.
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