Immediately Improve Talent Development With Our SBI Feedback Model

Immediately Improve Your Talent Development with the SBI Feedback Model - CCL

How Feedback Conversations & Talent Conversations Can Strengthen Organizations

What can you do to improve talent development?

Teach your leaders how to give feedback regularly and well (we recommend our Situation – Behavior – Impact (SBI)™ feedback model), and help them to hold effective talent conversations with employees.

This is the fastest way to improve talent development because individual leaders are in the best position to influence and develop talent — or shut it down. Managers can give employees good reasons to be engaged, work effectively, and build their skills.

Most importantly, a talent conversation isn’t done to someone, but with someone. It’s about building a relationship that allows managers to influence employees toward improved performance, development, and positive outcomes.

It’s one of the simplest yet most effective ways to develop others. And, if the employee has been given honest, ongoing feedback, these conversations don’t come as surprises.

Some of the most valuable types of feedback are given in the moment and on routine, day-to-day behaviors. When feedback is given consistently and well, managers establish and strengthen trust. The more trust and rapport managers can build, the more readily subordinates will accept and act on future feedback, creating a pattern of learning and growth.

How to Give Constructive Feedback Using the SBI Feedback Model

First and foremost, make sure your managers know that giving feedback regularly is more effective than saving it all for the performance review. It can:

  • Motivate employees to continue a behavior that increases their effectiveness
  • Encourage them to stop a behavior that reduces their impact
  • Encourage employees to adopt or modify a behavior that will make them more effective
  • Foster greater commitment to their work and the organization

Secondly, we always recommend giving feedback using our SBI feedback model. It’s a simple ways for leaders to structure feedback conversations to capture and clarify the Situation, describe the specific Behaviors, and explain the Impact that the person’s behavior had. 

Our SBI feedback model can be used to give both positive and negative feedback. It’s a process that may feel awkward or formal at first, but once managers get some practice, they tell us they find it’s incredibly helpful.

The SBI Feedback Model in 3 Simple Steps

Infographic: Use Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) to Explore Intent vs. Impact

1. Situation. Describe the specific situation in which the behavior occurred.

2. Behavior. Describe the actual, observable behavior being discussed. Keep to the facts. Don’t insert opinions or judgments.

3. Impact. Describe the results of the behavior. If the effect was positive, words like “happy” or “proud” help underscore the success of the behavior.

The experience is enhanced when the feedback, which is one-way, is accompanied by an inquiry about intent, which makes the conversation two-way. Many difficulties can be avoided by having a clarifying discussion around this with the other person. Learn more about using SBI to explore intent vs. impact.

Feedback Conversations Can Be Talent Conversations

Feedback conversations can be thought of as talent conversations. They’re an opportunity for managers to influence their direct reports towards improved performance, development, and positive outcomes.

Talent conversations can happen at any time, and are part of what it takes to coach your people on an ongoing basisBut one of the most critical moments for holding effective talent conversations is during your organization’s regular performance review process.

First, Understand the 4 Types of Talent Conversations

Managers need to be prepared to have 4 types of talent conversations, based on how an employee is doing. 

The first step is to clarify whether the employee is considered top talent, a solid performer, a potential performer, or an underperformer. The conversation will have a different focus, depending on how the employee is seen:

  • The Top Talent Conversation: Future Investment. Individuals who clearly meet or exceed expectations and deliver superior results are top talent. These are the individuals who are seen as the future leaders in the organization.
  • The Solid Performer Conversation: Maintaining or Building Value. Solid performers are typically individual contributors who are valued by the organization but could take on more responsibility.
  • The Potential Performer Conversation: Short-Term Success. Potential performers are individuals who may not have had enough time in their role to show significant results but are expected to bring a lot to the role they’re in.
  • The Underperformer Conversation: Improving Performance. Underperformers are not meeting expectations. The talent conversation should remain focused on the here and now rather than future options, new tasks, or additional responsibilities, especially if the person is becoming a difficult employee.

How to Structure a Talent Conversation

Whatever other formal talent management or leadership development systems are in place, talent conversations are where development becomes real. It’s the best time for managers to build their direct report’s commitment to the organization and engagement in the work.

So the feedback conversation itself should have a structure, too. Things will go more smoothly if you follow these 6 steps:

  1. Clarify the goal. What’s the purpose of the conversation? What exactly does each person want to accomplish?
  2. Explore the issues. Assess strengths, vulnerabilities, development needs, and performance. Identify motivation and career aspirations.
  3. Identify the options. Generate ideas and opportunities for learning and improvement.
  4. Set expectations. What do we want to do first? Next? What are the obstacles?
  5. Motivate. What support is needed? Are you sure the goals are meaningful? How can I help and what else is needed?
  6. Identify the plan. How will we know you are on target? How will we track outcomes?

Demands placed on managers to meet performance goals can be relentless, and priorities and challenges shift frequently.

That’s why the key to improving your talent development processes is ensuring that managers can hold meaningful talent conversations and know how to give routine feedback well (and again, the SBI feedback model is a great tool for that).

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Upskill your team’s capacity for giving feedback using the SBI feedback model so they can hold quality talent and feedback conversations. We can create a customized learning journey for your leaders using our research-backed modules. Available leadership topics include Conflict Management, Emotional Intelligence, Feedback That Works, Listening to Understand, Psychological Safety, and Talent Conversations.


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November 24, 2020
Leading Effectively Staff
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

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