"A strong culture puts us ahead of the game"

"A strong culture puts us ahead of the game"

CFO Ritchy Drost on the corporate culture at VodafoneZiggo

From day one, CFO Ritchy Drost has been fully involved in the 'Culture Crew'. In order to build a strong culture within VodafoneZiggo and to convince others of its value. In this blog, read about his vision of our culture, where mistakes and feedback play a key role.

A resounding yes. When they asked me years ago to join the Culture Crew, I didn't have to think too long about it. This is a group of enthusiastic employees who make sure company culture remains at the top of the agenda. During the merger of Vodafone and Ziggo, we made a very conscious decision to allow this culture to originate from the employees and not to impose it from management. However, it is important to make a connection between employees and management. My presence in the Culture Crew contributes to this.

Culture as fuel
A strong culture is indispensable for any successful organisation. Compare it to a Formula 1 driver. A strong engine and solid tyres won't be enough to get him across the finish line first. He also needs fuel to get ahead, just like a company needs a strong culture to grow. A strong culture works as a catalyst for success and is a way of breaking through bureaucracy and hierarchy.

The larger we become as a company, the more we have to regulate. This is inevitable. But a strong culture can make all the difference. By focusing on our thinking and doing, we can avoid getting bogged down in, for example, checklists and who has to sign off on what and when. Respect for hierarchy is all fine and dandy, but you also have to be able to break through it. In other words: challenging others or giving feedback shouldn't depend on someone's status or position.

It's ok to make mistakes
What I'd like to see is a different way of dealing with mistakes. It should start with everyone individually acknowledging that it's ok to make mistakes! As a matter of fact, that making a mistake is great! This offers you opportunities to improve yourself. So be honest about it and learn from it. There should also be greater acceptance of these mistakes. At the moment, it's still often all about who has made a certain mistake and where and when it happened exactly. I don't think this is important at all. Forget about all that, and instead let's give each other useful feedback and learn from it. I would love to see us taking steps in this direction.

Valuable feedback
The corona crisis has certainly made this more challenging. These days, we mainly see each other on a screen instead of in the office. As a result, admitting an error and giving or receiving feedback is very different from normal. I notice that I don't like it one bit when people turn their cameras off during meetings. I mean, it's already less personal from a distance. If on top of that the camera then goes off, it's like you're quietly crawling into a corner, so to speak.

And it is certainly not the case that giving and receiving feedback has become less important. Far from it even. That's why this year we are providing feedback training courses for all colleagues. I highly recommend these to everyone. Years ago, I used to see feedback as an attack. I couldn't cope with it at all. However, I now see its value and it is helping me in my development.

Open Up, Team Up and Step Up.
Precisely because I have realised how beneficial receiving feedback is, I'd also like to share these insights with other colleagues. This also fits in perfectly with the core values we have developed together. You open up to your colleagues, you give feedback to improve both as an individual and as a team, and you are resolute enough not only to give or receive this feedback, but to also actually work with it. This is how everything should fit together in my opinion.

I see 'Team Up' as the most powerful core value. Look at that F1 driver. Why do you think the first thing Max Verstappen does after a win is to thank his team? Because he badly needs them. This is also how it works within our organisation. With just 'Open Up' and 'Step Up' you only get solo initiatives. 'Team Up' is essential. By developing a stronger feedback culture, we are really adding an extra layer to those core values that are so important.