The Situation – Behavior – Impact Feedback Tool

Providing Clear, Specific Feedback

Woman giving feedback on a document.

Feedback is more effective if it's based on a specific situation.

© iStockphoto/asiseeit

Imagine that you recently gave some feedback to a member of your team. You told him that his meeting agendas looked great, but he needed to improve his presentation skills.

You follow up a few weeks later to find out why he hasn't made any changes. 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 my agendas that I can transfer to other documents?" and "What's wrong with my presentation skills?"

The Situation – Behavior – Impact (SBI) Feedback tool helps you deliver more effective feedback. It focuses your comments on specific situations and behaviors, and then outlines the impact that these behaviors have on others.

About the Tool

Developed by The Center for Creative Leadership, the SBI Feedback Tool outlines a simple structure that you can use to give feedback  :

  1. Situation.
  2. Behavior.
  3. Impact.

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 behavior on others, you're giving them the chance to reflect on their actions, and think about what they need to change.

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

Applying the Tool

Let's look at each part of the SBI Feedback tool, and discuss how to use it to structure feedback.

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:

  • "During yesterday morning's team meeting, when you gave your presentation..."
  • "At the client meeting on Monday afternoon..."

2. Behavior

Your next step is to describe the specific behaviors that you want to address. This is the most challenging part of the process, because you must communicate only the behaviors that you observed directly.

You must not make assumptions or subjective judgments about those behaviors. These could be wrong, and this will undermine your feedback.

For example, if you observed that a colleague made mistakes in a presentation, 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, as this may contain others' subjective judgments. Again, this could undermine your feedback and jeopardize your relationship.

The examples below include a description of behavior:

  • "During yesterday morning's team meeting, when you gave your presentation, you were uncertain about two of the slides, and your sales calculations were incorrect."
  • "At the client meeting on Monday afternoon, you ensured that the meeting started on time and that everyone had handouts in advance. All of your research was correct, and each of the client's questions was answered."


Aim to use measurable information in your description of the behavior. This helps to ensure that your comments are objective.

3. Impact

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

For example:

  • "During yesterday morning's team meeting, when you gave your presentation, you were uncertain about two of the slides and your sales calculations were incorrect. I felt embarrassed because the entire board was there. I'm worried that this has affected the reputation of our team."
  • "At the client meeting on Monday afternoon, you ensured that the meeting started on time and that everyone had handouts in advance. All of your research was correct, and each of the client's questions was answered. I'm proud that you did such an excellent job and put the organization in a good light. I feel confident that we'll get the account, thanks to your hard work."

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 behavior. (The Perceptual Positions   technique can help them explore how other people may think.) Allow the other person time to absorb what you have said, and then go over specific actions that will help him or her to improve.

Also, where someone has done something well, help them think about how they can build on this.

Key Points

The Center for Creative Leadership developed the SBI Feedback tool to help managers deliver clear, specific feedback. SBI stands for:

  1. Situation.
  2. Behavior.
  3. Impact.

To use the tool, describe the "when" and "where" of the situation. Next, describe the other person's behavior, only mentioning actions that you have observed. Then, communicate the impact of his or her behavior on you and others.

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

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Comments (6)
  • Michele wrote This month
    Hi skillseeker,

    Thank you for your comment. Your suggestions are excellent.

    Mind Tools Team
  • skillseeker wrote This month
    Some other sides to the dialogue may include:
    -saying thanks for something good they did
    -recognizing a strength for every weakness
    -reminding them of what you value of them
    -asking how they feel
    The idea of not making assumptions, speaking to ones own feelings, not interpreting theirs, are skills we can develop from many directions. My kids school uses the methods of Ginot, and I find them useful in adult conversation as well.
  • MichaelP wrote Over a month ago
    Denise, now you have ask them some one questions and practice your active listening - What they heard?, What they understood? and What they plan to improve, how when etc? Then make clear you want to help as appropriate and support their progress by agreeing to follow up.
  • Denise wrote Over a month ago
    Love SBI, but isn't that only half the conversation? You've stated your side of the story. How should one continue that dialogue with the other person in order to get results?
  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    That's a great endorsement. I'm going to have to check into their programs further. SBI is a fantastic tool -I couldn't agree more. I love tools that are simple and direct and this one fits that's pattern perfectly. I think when you add too much complexity or try to do too many things with a tool it creates confusion and the execution almost always suffers. Are you still using SBI with the expected results? did you have any resistance to it or any lessons learned with the introduction?

  • zuni wrote Over a month ago
    I introduced SBI in the company about ten years ago. At the time, managers were having a lot of difficulty providing feedback to employees for both career and performance discussions. The SBI model is easy for managers to remember and it gets results by focusing on what needs to change.

    I am a huge fan of the Centre for Creative Leadership's work and have been following their research for years. I also had the privilege of participated in their Coaching for Development program. Bar none, it is best training program I have attended.

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