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2 Ways to Lead Through Company Transformation According to Vrio

2 Ways to Lead Through Company Transformation According to Vrio

Great leadership is a challenge. But we can learn from the lessons and best practices of Vrio’s leaders. As Melissa Arnoldi, CEO at AT&T Latin America’s Vrio Corp., told us, “Successful business transformations happen when leaders realize that the change is not about them, it is about the people.”

1. Earn trust while making tough decisions

Many of the leaders we interviewed are relatively new to Vrio and entered the company not only during a restructuring, but also in the midst of a digital transformation.

Some of them have had to make tough business decisions to achieve their business goals. They’ve done so while earning the trust of their organization -- not an easy task.

They shared a few of the principles that helped them to achieve both high trust levels and business results:

- Honor and maintain what has worked well in the past rather than starting over from scratch

“When you are brought in as new leader to transform a company or a department, don’t make it feel like an invasion. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. You can let everyone contribute with their best talents.”

— Maria Casanovas, Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, DIRECTV Latin America

- Work proactively to build a connection with their new team, rather than expecting the team to come to them

- Get comfortable answering difficult questions

It's normal for most employees to have questions about the direction of the company. They especially want to know how they can continue to succeed as change happens.

Leaders at Vrio acknowledge this need and make themselves available to answer difficult questions.

“Sometimes honesty is the best way to make people feel cared for,” said one frontline employee in our open-ended survey.

- Champion the change and be extremely visible

Leaders walk around continuously and connect with their teams. During times of change, they create even more spaces for people to ask them difficult questions.

“People won’t start working in new ways because we tell them to do it through an email or video. People will do it as a result of seeing us out there and constantly explaining the change, checking it, and listening to their experiences with it.”

— Maximiliano Kassai, Chief Operations Officer, DIRECTV Latin America

- Keep all leaders informed

Vrio has frequent leadership meetings that involve all leaders within the organization. They keep all of them informed of what is going on, so that they can answer questions from their people too.

“Sharing the news and strategy in our staff meetings is great, but it is not enough. People like to hear things again directly from their leader. They want to feel that they have answers and that they know what is going on. That’s why we equip all our leaders with the talking points they need to be comfortable answering questions, especially frontline leaders.”

— Maria Casanovas, Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, DIRECTV Latin America

On the open-ended survey, employees expressed that noticing their boss was properly informed to answer to their questions was one of the most crucial elements to make them feel safe during major changes:

“Even if the change wasn’t directly in my department, it affected a department I work with. Having transparency, being able to ask my boss and her knowing what’s happening is what keeps me happy.”

— Frontline employee, Vrio

2. Use change as an opportunity to engage with employees

Vrio leadership shared with us that the biggest challenge in this journey has been the restructuring of its territories into new regions and lines of reporting. Having people operating in new ways required a significant change in daily behaviors.

Diego Benavides, Country Managing Director at DIRECTV Peru, shared with us what has been his approach to managing through significant structure changes:

In Peru, we used to operate independently as a country. Then, we became part of a region that includes multiple countries in a verticalized model. I now report directly and indirectly and have direct and indirect reports. My reports need to be informed about my conversations with my direct and indirect leaders.

“Our key to success in this new environment was to talk to our employees in a weekly basis about it. During the first 6 months of the new structure, I conducted approximately 20 ‘Breakfast with Diego’ sessions. We got together in groups of 15 people where they openly asked questions regarding why these changes were happening. People were more open to ask tough questions in this small group meetings than they were in larger forums. It started to inform people better about our strategic direction.

“These are great spaces for people to come up with great suggestions and ideas. For some of the challenges I have faced, I chose to ask for fresh ideas from employees instead of ideas only from managers. We put together diverse cross-functional teams of 7 people and analyzed the challenge together.

“We get wonderful ideas from our people, from new product design to initiatives to make us a 'green’ organization. Sometimes I can't say yes to some ideas because it would cost us too much or it would be unfair to others. However, people always know why I say no when I do.

“This approach has also helped us solve cross-departmental collaboration issues. We started conducting cross-functional weekly and bi-monthly meetings with our mid-level managers. We didn’t use presentations — we just sat in a circle and discussed solutions related to cross-functional topics. This group is all millennials, and we need to evolve our leadership in a way that will resonate with them. Leading through a top-down approach is outdated.”

Leading through COVID-19

Vrio plays a critical role in Latin American households during the global COVID-19 crisis, as it provides entertainment, education, and information to millions across during these difficult times.

As of April 2020, these were some of the special ways in which Vrio is supporting their employees:

Moving quickly to telecommuting for all roles that do not require on-site presence

99% of call center employees working from their homes

In Brazil, SKY held a live webcast to communicate to all leaders the decision of getting the entire workforce to work from home early on

  • Definition of safety policies and procedures for on-site workers
  • Provided leaders with procedures in case any of their employees reports a potential or confirmed COVID-19 case, including potential or confirmed cases among employees
  • An HQ daily newsletter to keep people informed while working from home
  • A weekly newsletter featuring personal stories of employees on how they are doing their work differently from home
  • Created a special social media group to maintain employees engaged, such as posting work-from-home photos
  • Inspiring videos from their country leaders
  • Enhanced technology tools and shared IT guides to support people while working from home

Interested in learning more about how you should be navigating change within your organization?

When navigating change, it is crucial to be in tune with your employees, and aware of their needs and pain points. You can survey your employees and access survey data through Emprising™ that will not only help you overcome challenges, but give you insight into how you stack up against the 100 Best Companies to Work For®!  


Lorena Martinez