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Jelte, our innovation lead, explains how his experiences in speedskating influenced the way we give feedback and work as a team.

This is his story

Breaking the ice: how speedskating revived our feedback culture.

It is not always easy to look back. Especially if what you see when you do look, are broken dreams.

Dreams of participating in the olympics, going faster then everybody else on the ice. Beating the world record and having a stadium cheering you to the finish line. 

Dreams that I have lived for for the main part of my life.

But I wouldn’t say that I lost all of my dreams. I still dream to be an entrepreneur, and to leave a positive impact on the world. A dream that I am still pursuing at Aim, where I build ventures for some of the largest organizations in the Netherlands.

But before I developed my passion for innovation I was still racing across the ice. Just as with any sport it was very important to train a lot. That’s why you could find me training up to 12 times a week, even during summers. But training definitely wasn’t everything. One of the most critical aspects to any skaters’ success is having the right team, giving the right feedback. So even though I might not be aiming for the olympics, I can still apply the same mindset while aiming for the moon!

There are more parallels between team dynamics in a professional sports team and an organization like Aimforthemoon than one might expect. In both situations it’s important to not just understand your own strengths and weaknesses, but to also know those of your teammates. Another aspect of a good team culture is that team members feel comfortable sharing their feedback with one another. A critical step in this process is making sure that the team understands each other’s personal goals and ambitions. When these are understood, teammates will automatically know when and how to help each other.

Applying this within Aim has been a relatively smooth process. My goal was to build upon the open culture that already existed, and create an environment in which everyone felt comfortable to give and receive feedback. In my experience, the empathy that team members have for each other can often stop them from providing honest opinions about performance. Feedback is fine when it’s about an organization and its methods, but it gets tricky once it deals with personal performance. It was therefore important to change the perception of personal feedback from viewing it as critique to viewing it as help.

To implement this culture change I started with a session in which I explained principles of feedback dynamics, and shared some techniques. I highlighted the need for team members to not just provide feedback, but to also seek it out. A very important change that came out of this session is that everyone in our team now knows each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and personal development goals. This allows us to jump in whenever we see that someone is struggling with one of their weak points, or ask for help when we know that someone excels in a certain subject. 

The best thing about this change process is that I saw how excited our team was to learn more about one another. Ever since the session everyone has been much more aware of each other’s qualities, and there is a lot more feedback being shared on a daily basis. I do believe that we can still improve, as we don’t share our personal goals as much as I would like to see. But a good feedback culture is also one in which we accept that learning is always continuous, so having something to improve on is only natural.

I feel very proud to have contributed to the stronger bonds and improved performance that our new feedback dynamics have introduced. A good culture takes time to develop, but having the right groundwork will make this process much more manageable. So make sure to stimulate a healthy feedback culture across your organization to strengthen teamwork.