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Mastering feedback with the 'Situation, Behavior, Impact' model.

Giving feedback can be a minefield. An effective way to give feedback with clarity is the "Situation, Behavior, Impact" model.
Matt 4 min read
Mastering feedback with the 'Situation, Behavior, Impact' model.

One of the most frequently asked questions in 1:1's is 'how do I give feedback to person x?'. To answer, I always coach the Situation Behaviour Impact model.

Giving feedback can be a minefield.

The way you deliver feedback is important. A good structure can make or break how it is received and the outcome it produces.

An effective way to give feedback with clarity is the "Situation, Behavior, Impact" model. The SBI framework works well in constructive AND positive feedback situations.

This structure helps ensure that your feedback is specific and focused on improvement. It also helps to reduce emotion in the process.

Here's how you can use SBI to enhance your feedback practice.

Understanding the SBI Model

The SBI model breaks down feedback into three components:

  1. Situation: Clearly describe the occasion or setting where the behavior occurred. This helps to contextualize the feedback and focus on a specific instance. Focusing on a specific instance helps avoid generalisation.
  2. Behaviour: Specify the actual behaviour you observed. It is important to focus on actions rather than perceived intentions. This can also help prevent feeding back on personality traits.
  3. Impact: Explain the effects of the behaviour on you, the team, or the project. This links the behaviour to its consequences and highlights its significance.

Implementing SBI.

To use the SBI model, follow these actionable tips:

1. Prepare Your Feedback

Take some time to reflect on what you want to say before the conversation. Write down the situation, the observed behavior, and its impact.

Preparing helps you stay on point and ensures your feedback is both clear and purposeful.

At first, this process will feel clunky. Over time, you will build an SBI 'muscle' that will help you do this automatically.

2. Choose the Right Time and Place

Feedback is best received in a private setting where the recipient feels comfortable.

Timing is crucial; try to provide feedback soon after the event while the details are still fresh. However, it is important avoid emotionally charged moments.

3. Be Specific and Objective

When describing the situation and behaviour, use clear and precise language. Avoid vague statements and focus on observable facts.

For example, instead of saying "You were disrespectful," describe the behaviour observed. An alternative is; "During the meeting, you interrupted Bob while they were speaking."

4. Discuss the Impact

Explain how the behaviour affected you or the situation. This helps the receiver understand the consequences of their actions.

From this, they can also hear importance of repeating or changing the behaviour in future.

To carry on our example. "When you interrupted your colleague, it made it difficult for us to hear everyone's ideas. This limited our team's ability to fully discuss the subject."

5. Engage in a Dialogue

After presenting your feedback, give the other person a chance to respond.

They may share context that gives you a better understanding of their behaviour. This also helps develop the feedback session into a constructive dialogue.

6. Be Solution Driven

Provide suggestions for improvement and offer help if needed.

This could involve setting up regular check-ins or providing resources for professional development.

Feedback should be a starting point for development, not just a critique.

7. Keep It Positive

The SBI framework can support positive feedback along with constructive criticism.

Using both in a balanced conversation increases the likelihood of feedback being received positively.


Implementing SBI as your feedback framework can transform the way that you interact.

By leveraging the SBI Model your feedback can be more actionable and less personal. This promotes a more open and communicative relationship.

At work, the model can reduce emotion in feedback situations. This can enhance trust and engagement, and drive individual and team performance.


Here are some examples of how you can structure feedback in your work environment:

Example 1: Meeting Punctuality

  • Situation: "During our weekly team meeting this morning..."
  • Behaviour: "You arrived about 15 minutes late."
  • Impact: "This delayed our agenda and meant we had to rush through the last few items. Other people may not have had enough time to give their input. Late arrivals disrupt the flow of meetings and might give the impression that time commitments are flexible."

Example 2: Handling Customer Calls

  • Situation: "When you handled the call with XYZ Co yesterday afternoon..."
  • Behaviour: "I noticed you spoke over the client a couple of times when they were trying to explain their issues."
  • Impact: "This might make the client feel unheard or that their concerns are not fully understood. In turn, this can affect their satisfaction with our service. Ensuring customers feel listened to is crucial for maintaining strong relationships."

Example 3: Collaboration on a Project

  • Situation: "In yesterday's project brainstorming session..."
  • Behaviour: "You had some excellent, innovative suggestions. You also encouraged others to share their ideas."
  • Impact: "This approach helped us come up with a variety of creative solutions. I also noticed that everyone seemed engaged and valued. Your involvement was instrumental in making the session productive and inclusive."

Example 4: Work Completion

  • Situation: "The financial report that was due last Friday..."
  • Behaviour: "Was submitted this Monday morning instead."
  • Impact: "The delay in submission disrupted our schedule for reviewing the quarterly finances. It also put pressure on the team to adjust their work plans. It’s important that we stick to deadlines to ensure the workflow runs smoothly for everyone."

Example 5: Leadership During a Crisis

  • Situation: "During the system outage last week..."
  • Behavior: "You took the initiative to coordinate with the IT team and keep everyone updated."
  • Impact: "Your leadership helped to ease concerns and maintained morale during a critical time. It also ensured that everyone could adjust their work effectively until the issue was resolved. Your actions had a very positive impact on our team's ability to navigate the crisis."

These examples show how the SBI model can be tailored to fit various contexts and how it helps keep feedback specific, constructive, and focused on improvement.

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