- April 29, 2020
- Posted by: Phil Gray
- Category: Meetings
Providing Clear, Specific Feedback
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 – Behaviour – Impact (SBI) Feedback tool helps you to deliver more effective feedback. It focuses your comments on specific situations and behaviours, and then outlines the impact that these behaviours have on others.
About the Tool
Developed by The Centre for Creative Leadership, the SBI Feedback Tool outlines a simple structure that you can use to give feedback.
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 behaviour 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 to avoid making assumptions that could upset the other person and damage your relationship with him or her.
Applying the Tool
Let’s look at each part of the SBI Feedback tool and discuss how to use it to structure feedback.
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.
“During yesterday morning’s team meeting, when you gave your presentation…” “At the client meeting on Monday afternoon…”
Your next step is to describe the specific behaviours that you want to address. This is the most challenging part of the process, because you must communicate only the behaviours that you observed directly.
You must not make assumptions or subjective judgements about those behaviours. 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 he hadn’t prepared thoroughly. You should simply comment that he made mistakes – and, ideally, note what the mistakes were.
Don’t rely on hearsay, as this may contain others’ subjective judgements. Again, this could undermine your feedback and jeopardise your relationship.
The examples below include a description of the specific behaviours you might want to address:
“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.”
Tip: Aim to use measurable information in your description of the behaviour. This helps to ensure that your comments are objective.
The last step is to use “I” statements to describe how the other person’s action has affected you or others.
“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 organisation in a good light. I feel confident that we’ll get the account, thanks to your hard work.”
Once you’ve delivered your feedback, encourage the other person to think about the situation and to understand the impact of her behaviour. (The Perceptual Positions technique can help her to explore how other people may think.) Allow her time to absorb what you’ve said as well, and then go over specific actions that will help her to improve.
Also, where someone has done something well, help him to think about how he can build on this.
The Centre for Creative Leadership developed the SBI Feedback tool to help managers to deliver clear, specific feedback. SBI stands for:
To use the tool, describe the “when” and “where” of the situation. Next, describe the other person’s behaviour, only mentioning actions that you have observed. Then, communicate the impact of his or her behaviour on you and others.
Finally, discuss what your team member needs to do to change this behaviour in the future, or, if his behaviour had a positive impact, explore how he can build on this.
We would encourage you to write three numbered bullet points on the bottom of the page that you have written out that listed detail of the SBI and give them the paper asking them to come up with up to three suggestions they recommend that will provide a solution for this issue. You may be lucky to get three suggestions, however one or two is still a start.
If you believe their suggestions are good enough to try out for a short period of time (1-2 weeks) then agree with them and sign and date the bottom of the paper and ask them to also sign off on their commitment to implement this positive action to fix the SBI.
The important thing here is to give them ownership of the situation and ownership of the solution to this entire issue.
Actively take note of their actions during this time and journal observations and changes in behaviour you and others notice. Then meet at the allocated time to review. In the review go over notes you have gathered and keep pointing the person towards the behaviour you desire to see and need them to maintain.