Receiving feedback at IBM Premium

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Suzanne Murphy shares her experiences with Business Digest on becoming a better feedback receiver — something she compares to “learning another language” — and explains how this skill has strengthened her ability to lead teams at IBM.


Using feedback to understand the needs of others
Suzanne says that feedback has been crucial to helping her to see blind spots that she would otherwise never have been able to recognize. She notes that personality differences can often cause leaders to demotivate teams inadvertently, such as when her personal lack of a need for external validation blinded her to this need in others. She first became aware of the issue when an employee approached her to say that another team member was unhappy. “It was not a matter of money or rewards but my lack of verbal appreciation,” she recounts. “When I first heard this, though, it was hard for me to think it was a big deal, because it isn’t something that I have ever needed from my supervisors.” After that initial feedback, Suzanne’s attention was brought back to the issue by an anonymous 360° feedback instrument that resulted in multiple comments from other team members all repeating the same message: they felt unrecognized by Suzanne. “At this point, I realized that I needed to tailor my responses to individual needs and unique personalities. I needed to notice the work, understand the time and effort behind it, and spend more time acknowledging it.”

Based on Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen (Viking, March 2014) and the interview with Suzanne Murphy, leadership designer, IBM, United States (September 2014).

Suzanne Murphy is a Senior Leadership Development Designer at IBM’s Center for Advanced Learning. She joined IBM in 1995 to lead a team that hired 1800+ employees in her first year. Suzanne holds a BA from the State University of New York, a Masters of Music from Pennsylvania State University, and is certified to interpret proprietary personality tests such as the Hogan Inventories.