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Don’t Procrastinate Feedback

During a leadership development workshop for senior officers, a CEO shared that he had initiated a feedback dialogue with his staff by applying the technique taught the day before. He told us that he had postponed and avoided giving feedback for this staff for many weeks, even though he sensed that his colleague was expecting to hear from him. The staff cried during the feedback session – not because he got scolded by his boss – because he was moved by his boss’ initiative and words.

Giving Feedback uing SBI

Leadership Development at the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga

The staff appreciated the CEO’s candid pointers on the impact of his behaviour and guidance on improving his performance. This CEO shared that he felt relieved after his conversation with his staff. “After all, giving feedback wasn’t that difficult.” And, in fact he is now enjoying giving and receiving feedback as he has seen the benefits – both parties are motivated and the relationship improved remarkably.

Many of us are anxious of feedback; we feel uneasy in telling or hearing the bad news. In Asian context, we are often limited by the fear of “losing face” – what if the receiver rejects our comment or advice; what if the receiver gets angry and raises voice?

Giving Feedback by Using SBI

Helping someone to reinforce his strengths as well as recognise and overcome his blind spots and learn from mistakes is every manager’s day-to-day responsibility. For the latter, the trick is to make it less personal. Applying the SBI technique offers some structure to achieve this. SBI stands for Situation, Behaviour and Impact. SBI suggests the following three steps for your next feedback session.

1. Specify circumstances and Situation at which the behaviour occurred.

2. Describe the actual Behaviour you observed.

3. State the Impact of this behaviour on you and others.

By using this technique, the feedback is rather focusing on facts – neither on person nor on assumptions. This helps to make it less threatening and easier to digest. It sounds like:

“Yesterday during our team meeting [situation], you have interrupted John and Marie when they were trying to offer their views [behaviour]. As a result, we have not heard their opinions; and the other team members may be afraid of contributing their views at the next meeting [impact].”

After stating the impact of the behaviour, you pause and wait for a response. You will be amazed how much people do listen to you. As manager, you need to be aware of your intention for giving feedback. If your intention is for your own success or just to get your message across, don’t give feedback. Choose your words carefully. “Always” or “never” should not be part of your feedback. They may sometimes put the listener off.


Giving feedback is one of the most powerful coaching techniques, the intention is to motivate, develop and enable the person. It is effective, if it is provided timely and focuses on solutions or next steps rather than searching for the culprit.

PS: Do not forget to give positive feedback, too. Good work, that gets noticed, gets repeated!