Dr. Shantha Mohan

When working at a Global Capability Center (GCC), it is common to feel apprehensive about influencing the activities of the company or having your opinions valued. The geographic distance separates you from the headquarters, and other factors, such as cultural differences, might magnify these concerns. But don’t let these factors limit you in what you can do. By enhancing three interrelated skills of negotiation, persuasion, and communication, you can gain the power to overcome barriers, make valuable contributions, and attain well-deserved accolades.

I. Negotiation

Negotiation is one of the skills GCC teams must develop in working with headquarters.

Performance metrics and KPIs, budgets and resource allocations, and business expansion and contraction are some instances when GCC personnel have to negotiate with their parent companies.

"Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate."

- John F. Kennedy

All of us are used to negotiating for simple things when we are children—“Can I stay up for half an hour more?” The worst that can happen is a negative answer. As we approach business negotiations as adults, it is not so simple. We stop being as curious and become fearful. So, the first step in negotiations is to have the courage to do so, as Kennedy says.

The second step is to prepare for the negotiation. Several aspects should be researched. One, understand all the facts of the situation. Gather all the material you can find on the topic and meticulously build a case in your favor. Two, understand the stance of the other party in the negotiation. Putting yourself in their shoes and empathizing can help you see where they are coming from. Three, understand what you are willing to live with as the outcome of the negotiation. This requires you to be self-aware, knowing your values, strengths, and weaknesses. These steps help you approach the negotiation with a win-win attitude.

The next step is to go through the negotiation. Approach it calmly and confidently. Listen to what the other party has to say carefully. With experience, you can read the body language and modify your response. Present your case cogently, clearly, and persuasively. Be prepared for an unfavorable outcome. The key is to end the negotiation leaving your relationship with the other party intact. 

Cultivating Influence - Negotiation

As we approach business negotiations as adults, it is not so simple. We stop being as curious and become fearful. So, the first step in negotiations is to have the courage to do so, as Kennedy says.

II. Persuasion

When I was leading global engineering as a co-founder of my retail analytics company, I had the pleasure of working with an engineering team leader at our Pune GCC, Akil, who personified what it means to be persuasive. He was a passionate advocate for open sources. In the early days of our company, we used WebLogic, the application server from the company BEA Systems. Akil persuaded the rest of us about the cost savings of using the open-source application server JBOSS. He collected information on the comparison, created a prototype using it, and demonstrated that we would achieve the same performance. He used data to convince us of the benefits of changing. 

Persuasion is a vital skill for the teams at GCC. It is necessary for negotiations (as mentioned earlier) and critical for managing change within GCC and in the relationship with the parent company. When GCCs want to be centers of excellence (COE), convincing others is necessary to effect change.

There are a few essential elements that characterize successful persuasive behavior.

  • You genuinely believe in what you advocate and are authentic.
  • You establish credibility by sharing your experiences.
  • You know your audience and speak in their language.
  • You listen with intention and can speak to assuage any concerns. You ask questions to fully understand the reasons for objections.
  • You are not overly aggressive, which could offend others.
  • You anticipate objections proactively and prepare to counter them.
  • You have data to support your position.

Persuasion is vital to an individual’s career success and a precious skill for a GCC team member. 

Persuasion is a vital skill for the teams at GCC. It is necessary for negotiations (as mentioned earlier) and critical for managing change within GCC and in the relationship with the parent company. When GCCs want to be centers of excellence (COE), convincing others is necessary to effect change.

III. Communication

Good communication is essential when persuading, establishing, and sustaining meaningful relationships. When you look at leaders who are successful in what they do, you see the power of communication at work.

“Abair ach beagan is abair gu math e.” [“Say but little and say it well.”]

- Gaelic Proverb

At a meta-level, communication between GCCs and the parent companies makes it possible to get things done. When there is excellent communication between the two, the company is successful.

I categorize communication between the parent company and the GCCs and internal GCC communications into purpose, platform, and channel.

Cultivating Influence -Communication Types

Shantha Mohan, Leadership Lessons with The Beatles, adapted.

Purpose: Formal and informal communications are types of purpose. An example of informal communication is when you are engaged in a conversation with your colleagues. For example, instant communication channels such as Slack may facilitate dialogue on a needed basis. Feedback on a project or a team member’s performance is an example of formal communication. A town hall meeting at the company or department level can be considered formal, though it might incorporate informal exchange as well. 

Platform: Varies from a large gathering, such as a company town hall, a department meeting, a small team meeting, or a one-to-one conversation. Depending on the topic, the team meeting might be at the GCC level or between the parent company and GCC staff. For example, a project progress meeting might be entirely between members of a GCC team. In contrast, a project status meeting might involve senior members from the GCC and project stakeholders from the headquarters.

Channels: Verbal and non-verbal communications are two types of channels. Non-verbal communication includes body language/posture, facial expression, and eye contact. We deliver verbal communication through oral and written communication. Today, with many of us working remotely, we rely on tools such as emails, presentation slides, and video communication tools such as Zoom.

Cultivating Influence - Communication

“Abair ach beagan is abair gu math e.” [“Say but little and say it well.”] – Gaelic Proverb

Communication Basics

The communication strategies you use vary depending on the purpose, platform, and channel. However, there are some vital tenets in verbal communication. 

One of them has to do with listening more than speaking. When giving feedback, it is essential that you listen to the response to what you said. When you have a brainstorming group meeting, it is critical to provide every group member a chance to speak, listen, and act on them. Another is maintaining a confident yet humble stance in your conversations, which can make you an excellent communicator. In a town hall meeting, to disseminate information and gauge audience response, viewing non-verbal communication and moderating your delivery can make your speech much more effective. In many cases, the language differences between those in the conversation require careful attention to what is being exchanged.

Listening ensures effective feedback, inclusivity in group discussions, confidence with humility, and understanding in multilingual conversations, enhancing overall communication.

The channel you use for verbal communication introduces many nuances. For example, if you communicate via a tool such as Zoom, which is often the case when a meeting between GCC and headquarters, you might be tempted to multitask. Giving your complete attention to the conversation is paramount and will ensure the success of the conversation. In such remote communications, you must also use highly functional equipment. 

With remote working, communications happen over emails and instant messages. It is essential to use the right tone when you write, choosing your words carefully. Since you don’t have the luxury of being able to see how the reader would react, be sure to make it precise. In the case of emails, if you are looking for a response, be sure to mention by when.  

Cultivating Influence

As a productive member of a GCC, you have many responsibilities—generating and fostering ideas, securing support for proposals, justifying budgets, and providing significant recommendations to promote effectiveness. Employing the interrelated proficiencies of communication, negotiation, and persuasion empowers individuals to exert substantial influence as part of a global capability center and the entire company.


Dr. Shantha Mohan

Software Engineering Leader, Author, Mentor

Author Spotlight

Dr. Shantha Mohan is a mentor, project guide, and an Executive in Residence at the iLab, Integrated Innovation Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Before that, she was a global technical leader and entrepreneur, co-founding Retail Solutions Inc., a retail analytics company. She also has over 20 years of experience focused on mission-critical systems to support semiconductor and other high-value-added manufacturing. 

Dr. Shantha is a three-time author, has authored Roots and Wings – Inspiring Stories of Indian Women in Engineering, and has co-authored Demystifying AI for The Enterprise – A Playbook for Business Value and Digital Transformation. Her newest book, Leadership Lessons with The Beatles: Tips and Tools for Becoming Better at Leading, was published by Routledge, Taylor & Francis in May 2022.

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