The strategy conversation you can only have here

Taking the sting out of feedback


The leadership freak ( Dan Rockwell ) asks an insightful question in his post about feedback , why are we right when we give feedback and others are wrong when they give us feedback? I jotted down some ideas about receiving feedback in a post last year . It is hard to really accept feedback that is at odds with how we see ourselves. More than that, for feedback to work, a number of challenges have to be overcome. Initially the person wanting to give feedback needs to be brave enough to tell us something that we probably would prefer not to hear. Once that hurdle is overcome, the method of delivering the feedback can scupper it before it is even delivered. Feedback that gets our back up is unlikely to be accepted. And lastly as the receiver of feedback, unless we are open minded, we will likely reject feedback unless it is delivered in just the right way. So how can we give effective feedback that doesn’t sting? The Centre for Creative Leadership has a very practical method for giving feedback which they call S-B-I ( Situation - Behaviour - Impact) model . Situation provides context, when did something happen or what was going at that time so that the person receiving feedback can locate what you are giving them feedback on. The best way to think about behaviour is how would we describe what we saw if we were watching a video of what had happened. No interpretation, no judgements, just describing what the camera would have seen. And impact is just about me (the person giving the feedback). What impact has the behaviour had on me. Not anybody else (even if we are sure that everyone saw it like we did). Mostly, we can only truthfully speak for ourselves. Here is an example to show how it works. I arrive at a meeting and my colleague Eric arrives 15 minutes late and proceeds to do a good presentation on the new sales strategy. When concluding the last few minutes are a bit vague and there are no clear next steps. Using the S-B-I model for feedback, I would give Eric feedback as follows:

While we are always tempted to generalise feedback we can only really talk about the impact on ourselves. We might think that everyone would respond the same way or all reasonable people would respond in the same way but this is not true. An equally valid SBI could come from someone else who was at the presentation.

There are a couple of key things that make the S-B-I model work very well.

  1. Feedback is about behaviour - what the camera saw
  2. The person giving feedback owns how the behaviour impacted them
  3. While judgements of behaviour can be included, they need to be owned by the person making them
  4. Behaviour may have a different impact on different people
  5. No ‘advice’ is given for how a person should change their behaviour
  6. The person receiving feedback is left to decide for themselves what to do with the feedback

My experience is that S-B-I feedback requires practice. It is all to easy to slip into old habits and give ineffective feedback. Dan Rockwell’s article provides some additional useful do’s and don’ts on feedback. CCL provide an example card that you can download . It includes a description, some examples and space to write your S-B-I feedback. Taking the sting out of feedback

Image source: