Dabra by SAP: Leading with Focus and Empathy

Great leadership starts with great relationships. Dabra by SAP helps leaders step up to great workplace relationships with effective and personalized meetings.

The future of work is defined by flat hierarchies and flexible work patterns, which we are already beginning to experience. Employees are taking more responsibility to drive their own projects while operating from virtually everywhere. This has a significant impact on the role of managers.

Leaders might wonder: How can I keep everyone on my team aligned toward shared objectives if we’re not in one office where information flows naturally? How can I keep people engaged if coffee chats or team lunches aren’t possible due to different locations and time zones? How can I learn about everyone’s personalities, working styles, and management needs without casual chats and ad hoc encounters?

Managing distributed teams can be a major leadership challenge that needs to be solved earlier rather than later. With the rise of globalization and technology, there’s an ever-increasing number of distributed teams. According to Gallup, 43 percent of employees work away from their team members at least some of the time — a number that is rapidly increasing.

We interviewed a couple hundred leaders in different organizations and countries who shared their pains with us. One seasoned leader told us that managing a diverse, distributed team was one of the biggest challenges in his career. “I have always worked in an international context, but being responsible for more than 20 people from different cultures in different time zones was much harder than I anticipated.” To get everyone engaged and aligned, he set up regular meetings with all new reports. But his team was somewhat unhappy and didn’t operate as one. “I really didn’t know what to do. I was jumping from one meeting to another, trying to keep everyone in the loop, but the team seemed misaligned and my people survey results plummeted to an all-time low.”

This leader always thought of himself as very people-centric, but without being co-located it was incredibly hard to live up to his aspirations. His schedule was packed, but he felt increasingly frustrated because the time he invested did not seem to satisfy his team’s needs. “Everyone had different asks and requirements. While some people felt micromanaged and claimed ‘We’re senior enough, just let us run,’ others felt left alone and blamed me for not actively engaging in political situations for them. Even others were extremely hard to read, as they didn’t address any shortcomings in our relationship, which prevented me from making things better.”

What we learned from the hundreds of leaders we talked to was that communication is key when it comes to successfully managing remote teams. If leaders fail to address every individual in a targeted manner, to learn about their working style and management needs, the entire team is doomed to fail, regardless of how capable each individual is.

So how do you effectively communicate with your remote team if you can’t rely on ad hoc encounters?

First, there are many ways of communicating remotely, but research shows that bombarding team members with messages at random times usually results in reduced effectiveness of communication. This leads to reduced productivity of team members, which is exactly the opposite of the desired outcome. Instead of communicating ad hoc and through multiple channels, successful leaders carefully plan their interactions with team members and set up regular 1:1 meetings – usually weekly check ins – with a clear agenda.

This puts leaders — even those of remote teams — at an advantage. Being forced to plan an interaction with a remote team member encourages leaders to be thoughtful about preparing their communications. He or she needs to plan when to have the conversation, what topics you will discuss, and what the desired outcomes are. At the same time, it is vital that the meeting partner also recognizes the importance of communication, so agendas can be co-created and shared in advance to manage expectations and make the most of everyone’s time.

To build an emotional connection with remote teams, it is vital that leaders are self-aware and aware of others. How do I operate and how do you operate? How do I communicate and how do you communicate? How to I learn and how do you learn? While these questions pop up casually during chats in the office, it may be tough to address them in a remote setting. At the same time, it is inevitable for remote leaders to raise and discuss these somewhat personal topics to establish strong, trust-based relationships.

With Dabra by SAP, we believe that great leadership starts with great relationships, which is why we are building a tool that helps leaders create strong work relationships. Dabra was founded by four SAP colleagues in Ra’anana, Israel. With our big vision, we secured a seed investment from SAP.iO Venture Studio, the company’s internal startup incubator, and launched Dabra, now used by leaders in more than 80 companies from across industries and geographies.

Dabra helps leaders step up to great workplace relationships with effective and personalized meetings. With an Outlook calendar integration, Dabra helps leaders and employees prepare effectively and get ready for meetings in an instant. Personalized reminders for setting meeting agendas and following up on action items help ensure that all meeting participants are engaged. It also enables focus and continuity by helping leaders keep track of all meeting topics and notes in one place, to avoid losing track of ongoing conversations.

Dabra also helps leaders understand employees better and grow in empathy. Through behavioral insights, leaders can engage more personally with their teams and build trust with team members easily. With every meeting, the time spent becomes an investment into strong work relationships.

Dabra can help users to master other leadership challenges, such as managing teams in times of change and empowering team members that operate with a high degree of autonomy.

Stay tuned for more and try Dabra by SAP for free here.

Meet Vitaly Vainer at SAPPHIRE NOW and learn more about Dabra by SAP. Visit demo station #PE416 in the People Engagement neighborhood and check out the details for all Dabra sessions, as well as a session with SAP Chief Innovation Officer Max Wessel.

Vitaly Vainer is general manager of Dabra by SAP.