The Words of Leadership: Feedback (Part 1 - How to give)

Feedback is an essential tool in leadership, with the power to transform individual performance, team dynamics, and overall organizational success. In this first article, we will delve into its etymology, explore the motivation behind it, discuss a practical method for giving feedback, and provide some examples.

[Lorenzo Conti] · 1379 words · 7 min read · Sep 18, 2023
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  • The etymology of “feedback” dates back to the Latin verb “fodicare”, meaning “to feed or nourish”.
  • This verb was later adapted in French as “féder”, which means “to provide food for”.
  • The French verb was then borrowed into English in the early 15th century as the noun “feedbakke”, which was used to describe the provision of food for animals or people.
  • The modern-day meaning of “feedback” first appeared in the late 17th century, when it was used to refer to the response given to a given action.

This meaning was derived from the idea of providing sustenance in the form of a response to an action. Over time, the word came to be used more generally to describe any kind of response to an action, and its use in this form is now commonplace in both spoken and written English.


Feedback is an essential tool in leadership that has the power to transform your individual performance, team dynamics, and overall organizational success. Giving and receiving feedback can be challenging, but it constitutes an essential part of your personal and professional growth. If you effectively utilize feedback, you can create a culture of growth, transparency, and continuous improvement, leading to improved engagement, productivity, and motivation among your team members.

Recognize strengths and areas for improvement

Feedback provides you with a mechanism to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of your team members. By giving constructive criticism, you can help individuals identify areas for improvement and provide guidance on how to overcome them. This helps you gain a deeper understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, which can lead to increased self-awareness and improved performance. When you receive constructive feedback, you are more likely to take ownership of your work and make necessary changes to improve your performance.

Build stronger relationships

Feedback helps you build stronger relationships with your team members. When you provide regular feedback, you demonstrate a commitment to the growth and development of your team members. This fosters trust, respect, and a sense of belonging among your team members, which can lead to improved collaboration, communication, and teamwork. When your team members feel valued and supported, they are more likely to feel motivated and engaged in their work.

Gain insights from within the organization

Feedback provides you with valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your organization. By collecting feedback from team members and stakeholders, you can identify areas for improvement and take necessary steps to address them. This can help to improve organizational performance, reduce inefficiencies, and enhance the overall customer experience. When you are open to feedback, you demonstrate a willingness to learn and adapt, which is essential in today’s rapidly changing business environment.

Foster a culture of continuous improvement

Feedback is an important component of a culture of continuous improvement. By encouraging open and honest communication, you can create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, ideas, and concerns. This can lead to a more innovative and creative workplace, where ideas are shared freely, and improvements are made continuously. When your team members feel empowered to contribute to the organization’s success, they are more likely to feel motivated and engaged in their work.

How to give feedback

Providing feedback is a crucial aspect of your professional development and growth. Your ability to give feedback effectively can have a significant impact on your performance, motivation, and confidence.
One of the models we use is the SBI™ model, developed by the Center for Creative Leadership. The model outlines a simple and powerful tool for giving feedback that is specific, objective, and actionable. The model consists of three components: Situation, Behavior, and Impact. Each component represents a key element in the feedback process and helps ensure that feedback is delivered in a clear and constructive manner.

[S] Situation

Provide context for the feedback by describing the circumstances in which the behavior occurred.
This context helps to ensure that the feedback is relevant and specific. For example,

  • instead of saying, “You didn’t do a good job in the meeting”,
  • you could say, “In the meeting yesterday when we were discussing the new project, I noticed that you struggled to articulate your ideas clearly.”

[B] Behavior

Describe the specific behavior that you observed.
By focusing on the behavior rather than the person, you can provide objective and specific feedback that is less likely to be perceived as personal criticism. For example,

  • instead of saying, “You are not a good communicator”,
  • you could say, “During the meeting, I noticed that you interrupted others when they were speaking and didn’t listen actively to their ideas.”

[I] Impact

Describe the impact of the behavior on the individual, the team, or the organization.
This is perhaps the most important component of the framework as it helps the individual to understand the consequences of their behavior and the importance of improving. For example, you could say,

  • “The impact of your behavior was that other team members didn’t have a chance to contribute their ideas, and we missed out on important insights that could have helped us make a better decision.”

The model is an effective feedback tool with several advantages:

  • Specificity: it provides specific and objective feedback that helps individuals understand what they need to improve on and how they can do it.
  • Constructive criticism: it enables feedback givers to provide constructive criticism that is less likely to be perceived as personal criticism.
  • Actionable feedback: it helps individuals understand the impact of their behavior and provides them with actionable feedback to help them improve their performance.
  • Positive work culture: it helps to create a culture of continuous improvement and growth, where individuals feel supported and encouraged to reach their full potential.

It’s crucial to recognize that providing feedback can evoke strong emotions. Therefore, here are some practical steps to assist you in applying the SBI method effectively:

  1. Prepare the SBI information.
  2. Assess your inner state, remain present and intentional.
  3. Request permission while maintaining good eye contact. Ask, “How open are you to receiving feedback?”
  4. Share your feedback following the SBI method.
  5. Pause. After delivering the feedback, take a moment to pause.

Note: SBI and Situation-Behavior-Impact are trademarks of the Center for Creative Leadership


Performance Review

  • (S) During the recent project,
  • (B) I noticed that you missed several deadlines and didn’t provide regular status updates as required.
  • (I) This impacted our team’s ability to meet client expectations and caused unnecessary stress. To improve, it’s important to prioritize tasks and communicate progress more effectively.

Team Collaboration

  • (S) In our last team brainstorming session,
  • (B) I observed that you were not actively participating and seemed disengaged.
  • (I) This made it difficult for us to generate innovative ideas and slowed down our progress. To enhance team collaboration, it’s essential to actively contribute and share your insights during discussions.

Customer Service

  • (S) During the customer call this morning,
  • (B) I noticed that you sounded impatient and frustrated when addressing the client’s concerns.
  • (I) This may have left the customer dissatisfied and could harm our relationship. To provide exceptional customer service, it’s important to remain calm and empathetic, even in challenging situations.

Project Team Collaboration

  • (S) Throughout the duration of our project,
  • (B) you consistently collaborated well with your team members, shared your expertise, and proactively offered assistance when needed.
  • (I) Your positive attitude and teamwork significantly contributed to our project’s success, and it’s evident that your dedication strengthened our team’s cohesion.

Employee Development

  • (S) Over the past few months,
  • (B) you’ve shown great initiative by seeking out opportunities for professional development, attending relevant training sessions, and applying what you’ve learned to your daily tasks.
  • (I) Your commitment to self-improvement has not only enhanced your skills but also positively impacted the team’s overall performance. Your dedication to growth is commendable and sets a great example for others.

Heads up!
Stay connected to read the second article about feedback. We will focus on our fear of feedback, how to receive feedback, and, last but not least, we will disclose the rule number zero of feedback.

And remember, Feedback is a Gift!

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