The Benefits of Using the SBI Feedback Model

Corey was excited to speak with Lindsey over coffee in the employee lounge of their IT company. Corey was a fairly new manager and Lindsey was a successful, well-respected leader. Lindsey had brought along many of the company’s rising stars. People sought out spots on her project teams. She seemed to possess whatever that secret sauce was that made the people who worked for her better.f

Corey was smart enough and ambitious enough to want to learn as much as possible about what made Lindsey such a success. What kind of advice could she offer him?

Lindsey was happy to help. As she spoke, she made it very clear to Corey that there were many variables and characteristics that defined and shaped great leadership — and that leadership skills always needed to be developed, adapted, and worked on. Lindsey mentioned that she had an executive coach herself, and was always working on her own leadership skills. This amazed Corey because he assumed that Lindsey had “arrived on the mountain top.” He was intrigued by the idea that even the best continue to work on their skills.

He was also a little surprised (and later, very grateful) about where Lindsey chose to focus her comments during their get together. “As a manager, a supervisor, a leader, you should be providing feedback constantly,” said Lindsey. “People crave getting feedback. We all want to know how we’re doing — where we stand. And we may not always show it, but most of us sincerely want to get better.”

This was no lecture about being a mission-driven visionary, or how to persuade others to win your point!

“Giving really good feedback helps you shape the culture and talent on your team and helps you get important things done,” continued Lindsey. “It gets people excited about strengthening their skill sets and it gets people excited about contributing to something bigger than themselves.”

Lindsey explained to Corey that she is a big fan of the SBI Feedback Model. Originally developed by the Center for Creative Leadership, the Situation, Behavior, Impact (SBI) Feedback Model is easy to understand, easy to use, and very effective. It also works equally well with both negative, and positive feedback — a major point of importance for Lindsey. For more, read Arden Coaching’s blog, “Giving Effective Feedback… Effectively.

Using SBI, all feedback is delivered in three stages:


Describe the situation where the behavior occurred. Be very specific — when, what, where. It is also critical that you directly observed the behavior — no second hand stories please!


Recount the person’s “observable” behavior. Do not attempt to be a mind-reader. Work only with what you objectively see and hear. Do not infuse your description of the behavior with assumed judgments or intentions.


Narrate the effect of the behavior on you and others. Explain what you believe the results and consequences of the behavior were. Again, this should be what you feel, perceive, and believe. Always speak for yourself, not others.

Example Situation 1:

“Jenn, at today’s meeting with the sales team…”

Behavior: “You spent extra time explaining the rationale for the price increases and asked specifically if everyone was clear about the data and the market assumptions the company was making…”

Impact: “I was delighted with your effort to gain understanding with the sales team and help them get excited about selling this product line in the coming year. After that, I saw their body language relax and I think they became more engaged.”

Example Situation 2:

“Alex, on page 8 of your report to the regional managers that you distributed yesterday…”

Behavior: “You wrote about the planned product line price increases, saying ‘Any push back from sales people should not be tolerated because it’s their job to sell whatever the company chooses to offer.’”

Impact: “I feel that your statement diminishes the importance of teamwork and collaboration and I am concerned that it communicates a lack of respect for the sales group.”

Lindsey added that the more feedback you offer, the better (and the better you become). She strives to provide feedback regularly — no one should be hearing about an issue or concern for the first time at their annual or semi-annual review. For more, read When Should I Offer Feedback?

Of course, there is more, including focusing on feedback that is actionable and effectively developing recommendations for change and improvement, but she urged Corey to explore the benefits of delivering productive feedback using the SBI Feedback Model and to practice the skills and techniques to become expert at this approach. It was, perhaps, the most valuable cup of coffee in Corey’s career.

To learn more about effective feedback, and developing your leadership skills, contact Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.