Many years ago I had a boss who gave two types of feedback. You were either “phenomenal,” “extraordinary,” “a spark plug” (that was a really good thing) or you were “not strategic,” “bland” (I wasn’t often called that), “lazy.” Being called either fantastic or awful is not helpful. And that is a missed opportunity.

Giving effective feedback, either positive or negative, can be a gift. There is a three-step process I use very often in both my professional and personal life. Using “SBI” (Situation, Behavior, Impact) helps keep your comments focused and relevant.

  1. Situation – Start the conversation by framing the situation you’re talking about. “You know how important these merger discussions are to our future.” “In our staff meeting last Wednesday…” “At the board meeting last week when you were asked to present for five minutes…”
  2. Behavior – Focus on specific behavior. “When you arrived 30 minutes late.” “You rolled your eyes when I was speaking.” “You texted through most of the meeting.” “You spoke for 25 minutes.” Be specific, direct, and objective.
  3. Impact – Now you become subjective and talk about how the behavior impacted you. For example, “I felt frustrated.” “I think it reduced my credibility with other staff members.” “I felt you were disrespectful of the board’s time.” Words like “think” and “feel” allow room for interpretation.

Then you listen. You want to hear whether the person truly heard what you said and whether your interpretation was correct. Ask for their feedback and talk about how the behavior will change in the future.

SBI is a powerful tool for positive feedback as well. It helps to define and reinforce positive behavior.

While at times uncomfortable and stressful, effective feedback demonstrates an investment you make in a person’s personal and professional development.