The Power of Giving Feedback with SBI

In order to improve performance in the workplace, most people need to receive at least 4 positive affirmations for every 1 corrective or constructive piece of feedback. For significant others and close friends and family, the ratio is closer to 11:1.

Many of us, unfortunately, tend to flip these ratios as we give feedback.

To be as effective as possible in giving both positive affirmation or corrective feedback, try using an approach that the Center for Creative Leadership popularized: the S-B-I approach.

S – Situation: Describe the setting, time and place.

“Yesterday morning during the weekly team meeting…”

B – Behavior: The action(s) you saw the person demonstrate. Avoid general comments like ‘you always’ or ‘you never’ and avoid accusatory non-specific language like ‘you were rude.’ This will help minimize defensiveness and escalation.

“You looked at your phone, scrolling, and typing, most of the meeting. You didn’t look at people or what they were presenting, and you didn’t say more than 2 words.

I – Impact: My response to the person’s behavior or others’ observable responses to the behavior. Or impact on results. Avoid statements about the others’ intent; focus on how their actions landed with you.

“I was disappointed and frustrated that you didn’t participate. It seemed like you were not engaged or listening. I am concerned that we likely didn’t get you on board with this proposal enough for you to advocate for it when you’re talking with other senior leaders.”

Using the S-B-I approach can help make your positive affirmations more powerful. E.g., “I loved how you grabbed our attention with your opening statement during our meeting.” Vs. “nice work today.”

And when you need to deliver tough feedback, an S-B-I approach can help reduce the other person’s defensiveness and also set the stage for a more productive conversation. You may have a suggestion or directive, but you’re more likely to help the person drop his or her guard and take ownership if you first set the stage by sharing your feedback with the S-B-I approach.

Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. As a leadership consultant and executive coach, he helps leaders and teams confidently achieve extraordinary relationships and results. You can reach him at or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.