Growing Teams with the SBI Model: A Framework for Effective Feedback

As a manager, one of our key responsibilities is guiding the growth and development of your team members. Providing timely and impactful feedback is crucial in helping your reports enhance their skills and continuously improve their work. The SBI model is my go-to framework for giving both positive and critical feedback. I’ll go into the key aspects of this model and share a few personal takeaways to help you effectively implement it in your role as a manager.

If you’re familiar with the SBI model for feedback, feel free to skip to the takeaways section.

The SBI Model Explained

The SBI model, which stands for Situation, Behaviour, and Impact, is a structured approach to giving feedback. This model provides a clear structure and ensures that your feedback is specific, actionable, and focused on the effect it has on the recipient and the team as a whole.

1. Situation

Start by describing the specific situation or context in which the behaviour occurred. This helps the recipient understand the context and identify the exact incident or scenario being referred to. For example, “During yesterday’s team meeting when discussing the project timeline…”

2. Behavior

Next, describe the behaviour or action that you observed. Be objective and focus on observable actions rather than subjective interpretations. Phrases like “I noticed that…” or “You did/said…” can be helpful in this step. For example, “I noticed that you interrupted your colleague multiple times while they were presenting their ideas…”

3. Impact

Finally, explain the impact of the observed behaviour on the individual, the team, or the project. Highlight the pros and cons. This step helps the recipient understand the significance of their actions and the importance of change. For example, “This behaviour may have made your teammate feel disregarded and demotivated, hindering collaboration within the team.”

This part is key as it explains what the benefit or consequences of the behaviour were. Ideally, the individual will acknowledge what they’ve done and treat this as a valuable takeaway.

Personal Takeaways for Effective Feedback

After practicing the SBI model for several years to provide both positive and critical feedback, here are a number of takeaways that I’ve learned.

Lay the foundation for giving and receiving feedback

When meeting a new team member, or working with someone new, it can be helpful to be explicit about your intention to help them out by sharing your intention of providing them feedback in the future. It’s also helpful to mention that you’re open to receiving feedback. This has a threefold effect: showing that you’re interested in supporting their success, preparing them to be open to receiving feedback, and the potential for yourself to receive feedback.

Write the feedback out beforehand

Before giving feedback, take some time to reflect and organize your thoughts. Writing out everything you plan to say helps ensure that your feedback is clear and concise. It also allows you to focus on the delivery of the feedback rather than worrying about the mechanics of the feedback model. This preparation enhances the effectiveness of your delivery. Over time you’ll get better at this, both determining which moments feedback should be provided, and being able to do it off the top of your head. When face to face with the recipient, mentioning that you have collected your thoughts by writing down the feedback and will read it back now can reduce the awkwardness of sounding like you’re reading something that has been written down.

Build up a habit of providing positive feedback

Not everyone will be used to receiving positive or constructive feedback from you. Its impossible to know how they’ll respond, and how open they’ll be. One way to work at building up a repertoire of providing feedback is to start by providing a few genuine positive feedbacks to the recipient over a period of time. An unsolicited message can do it. Over time this builds up the trust and shows that you’re supportive of them. Once this trust and openness has been built up, the recipient will likely be more open to and appreciative of constructive feedback.

Positive feedback can be shared via a quick message, but constructive should often be face to face

Many types of positive feedback can be shared over a quick message or email as there might not be much back and forth after the fact. It can be quite easy to make a message sound positive to the recipient. When it comes to constructive feedback, its easy for a recipient to read a message and misjudge the tone, making the feedback sound harsh. Having a real time face to face conversation provides much higher quality experience where the recipient’s emotions and reactions can be picked up on in realtime. Having a face to face also shows that you’re invested in their success as this takes more effort than composing a simple message or email. Another benefit is the proceeding conversation the recipient and yourself may have to dig deeper into the feedback, how they see things, etc. is faster than over messaging or email.


Providing feedback promptly is essential. Ideally, give feedback on the same day or as soon as possible after the incident. This ensures that the feedback is fresh in both your mind and the recipient’s, maximizing its effect. Delayed feedback may not have the same effect and can lead to misconceptions or forgotten details.

Aim to chat now or clearly schedule a time to share feedback

Blindsiding someone with feedback can be a surprise, especially if a meeting invite shows up out of nowhere with no details. Give the recipient a heads up if they would like to receive some feedback. Mentioning that it’s positive or constructive feedback meant to help them can help lower their defences and be open to the feedback.

Not everyone will be open to feedback

It can happen that someone just isn’t comfortable with receiving feedback, or that right now isn’t a great moment. Who knows what mindset the recipient is currently in. This can happen, and it’s of no use to push feedback on to someone who doesn’t want to receive it. This would lead to a loss of trust, amongst other negative outcomes. Instead, move on without providing the feedback. There might be another occasion in the future. Consider the previous point on providing unsolicited positive feedback. It may help open up the recipient to hearing constructive feedback.

Exclusively talk about the feedback

Prefer to grab some time to talk with the recipient outside of their ordinary schedule with you, and have the entire conversation only focus on the feedback and any potential questions or organic conversations that focus on the feedback. This makes it very intentional that the time should focus on the feedback and personal growth. It defeats the point if the feedback is promptly given, then the conversation pivots away to a different subject like it never happened. Time should be given for the recipient to reflect on it, ask any questions, and for yourself to make any suggestions, if necessary.

Don’t assume other people’s observations

Aim to provide feedback only on your own observations. Relying on another’s observations, especially if not present at the time can make it harder to form strong points for the SBI model. Sometimes this best practice should be broken if other’s have shared positive or critical feedback with you that is beneficial enough to share. As a manager, this is one of the superpowers: hearing how one team member is doing from other team members, and sharing that feedback to help their growth.

Providing feedback won’t always have the desired effect

Just sharing feedback with an individual won’t always change their behaviours going forward. Don’t let it weigh heavy on you or think badly of the recipient if you feel that it looks like previous feedback didn’t have any effect at all. It takes serious effort and willpower for someone to change their own behaviour. If witnessing someone completely disregard previous feedback, use this as another opportunity to provide feedback, while emphasizing that this was previously brought up. Provide benefit of the doubt as people can make mistakes, and it can take multiple times to get into the habit. As a manager, this is a powerful way to grow members of your team, but use it wisely.

If their attitude changes

People new to receiving critical feedback may have the feedback weigh heavily on themselves immediately or some time after. Criticism can be taken to heart. This can look like a stark negative change in their attitude. If this happens, help by empathizing with them that this is just a little bump on the road, and that the feedback is focused on the behaviour (which can be improved upon) and not a criticism of who the person is. More plainly: the feedback is aimed to improve their behaviours, not change who they are. Over time, receiving critical feedback can become easier and easier for the recipient.


Well done on making your way through the 69 mentions of the word feedback in this post! In summary, the SBI model provides a valuable framework for giving feedback that promotes professional growth and continuous improvement. By following the structure of Situation, Behaviour, and Impact, you can deliver specific and actionable feedback that helps your reports understand the context, the observed behaviour, and its impact. Remember to always provide feedback as soon as possible and take the time to prepare yourself before engaging in feedback discussions. By using the SBI model and incorporating these personal takeaways, you can foster a culture of growth and development within your team.

Accelerate your team as its Lead

Building software can be hard. Requirements can be swept under the rug, only to find out that: Whoops. We shouldn’t have forgotten about those. Stakeholders requests can silently be forgotten, only to be brought up later, eroding trust. Decisions can take a long time to make if the right people are missing, and even if the room doesn’t know they have the power to. Developers may also be blocked on their work with not knowing that one critical piece of information. Who best to alleviate the previously mentioned pains other than the team’s Lead?

Call the position a Lead Developer. Call it a Development Manager. Call it whatever. Even if you don’t have the title, the ability to influence and lead people to make the team’s product, people, or processes better are well needed in all development teams.

As a Lead, your back is on the line when it comes to everything your team does. The glory you pass down onto the individual team members, or the entire team. The failures you have to suck up and own yourself. Since the engineering lead is on the line when it comes to the team’s output and performance, it’s a large incentive to use your experiences, skills, and contacts to supercharge your team.

One of those methods of influence I have been using recently is picking up and coming to some sort of closure for decisions that haven’t been made, or information that is needed by the development team.

I am of the type of Lead who will perform a gut check and directly ask a developer if they’re blocked on missing information. If the way to unblock them is clear and simple, I point them in the right direction, backing it up with whatever details about the technical, vision, or user story – all without having to reach out to the person best suited to answer. If something is of importance, where the wrong answer could waste time or affect the product in a negative way, reaching out to the person who would know the answer is often necessary. Making it your personal mission to figure that out, and report back to the dev about the answer builds trust that yes, you the dev Lead can help.

Side note: If the dev is skilled enough in knowing a problem area and is able to talk with stakeholders or the people necessary to help solve their problem, encourage them to own figuring this out themselves instead of dealing with it yourself. Empowering your dev to be more independent through dealing with people they may not have met grows the number of contact they have, improves their ability to be resourceful, and can result in being more engaged with the problem. Since this may be an uncharted area for the dev, one on one time is quite valuable for talking about your report’s recent situations, helping them problem solve, and strategizing.

We are all in the 21st century working at high tech organizations – meetings are terrible since we have a wealth of different synchronous and asynchronous tools to get the same or better outcome from a meeting. Therefore I don’t like attending most meetings. Though sometimes you just have to get multiple people into a physical or virtual room and talk things through. Gaining the skills to be a meeting facilitator is very beneficial. It’s basically the practice of having an agenda, leading a meeting, keeping people on track, coming to conclusions on the talking points, and lastly creating action items. Without a meeting facilitator, it can be easy for a meeting to become taken over by one speaker or topic, leaving all other items to talk about untouched. Action items can also fall by the wayside, by either not being discussed, or people not being held accountable, which can absolutely demotivate people on the effectiveness of that meeting, especially if it’s recurring.

Sometimes you might be missing one critical person in the room. It’s always painful to know that We’re not going to get to a decisive answer on what we should do since we’re missing Jimmy. Getting good at honing in on this skill helps make your meetings productive, either by cancelling them to save everyone’s time, or consulting with the missing people beforehand. Giving this intuition as feedback to other people who host meetings can only help reduce this from happening in the future. No one likes wasting time.

It’s one thing to have the meeting and come out feeling Great! Everyone knows what needs to be done. Time to sit back and watch my genius planning unfold. Wrong. That’s half of the battle. You still have to course correct from time to time. This could mean following up on the people assigned action items to see if they need help or are blocked, freeing up devs from tasks that are of lesser of priority, and making sure the right people are being notified when action items are completed.

But when the stars do align and the team gets shit done, don’t stay entirely humble. Remember to give yourself some credit for accelerating the team.