Jessica Lightbourne Column: Control Orientation

July 26, 2022

Jessica Lightbourne Bermuda June 2022[Column written by Jessica Lightbourne, which is Part 4 of a five part series]

Part 4: Control Orientation

How do you own the boardroom? Bottom line: remember that you are the CEO of your life. This knowledge is what separates the wheat from the chaff. As a leadership coach specialising in career development for Black male executives, I have witnessed time after time how understanding your full power and ability to create your reality, allows you a seat at any table. Not only will you be invited to the table, you will be able to create the table and lead from a place of authority.

Know Your Power. You are the master of your fate. You are the captain of your soul. In the boardroom and in business it is called “Control Orientation”. It is your ability to create your reality and rise above circumstances. If you have made it into the boardroom, it has not been by sheer luck, you made it happen. Great leaders relate to themselves as the generators of their success. That said, we all know the history of enslaved Africans in the West, we are all well versed in the realities of systemic oppression and privilege.

There are times where those systems feel unconquerable. We understand the ceilings that you have encountered and the mountains you have had to climb to make it to the table. Nevertheless, you must look to the future you are creating, knowing that you have the power to create a new reality. Separate from circumstances, separate from the boardroom drama and the meetings after the meeting, you are powerful enough to make the impossible possible. In the boardroom the great leaders do not ask “is it possible?” They ask, “how will we make it so?”.

Train Your Thoughts. Sitting at the table, you need to be unfazed. Showing up with composure and equanimity will allow you to be unwavering when under pressure. It will ensure that they never see you sweat. It will ensure that you don’t sweat! Our thoughts create our emotions, and our emotions influence our behaviour [and our bodily functions]. Ensure that you are disciplined in your thinking. Identify the thoughts that derail you and push you off your game, and then create a habit of substituting those thoughts with new ones.

Setting intentions through “I am” statements [also known as affirmations] have been scientifically proven to shift emotions and behaviour. Identify your unhelpful thoughts, notice what you can and cannot be with, observe the judgements and interpretations you create in certain circumstances and counter them with inquiry. Is your thought true? How can you be sure that it is true? How would you feel and behave differently without that thought? What would be another more empowering thought? Choose that thought. Changing your mind will change your physiology.

Speak with Intention. Conversations are how business is done. Crafting your communication in the boardroom or at the board dinner will support you in the short and long term. There are generally four communication styles that you will encounter in every boardroom [and any room for that matter] and knowing what style people prefer will allow you to be the most effective at influencing your audience.

Be Direct. Be Clear. The first style is short on time and patience. Their desire is that you get to the point and do it fast. When presenting, get straight to the point and say the bottom line in your opening statement. Your audience will likely start zoning out as soon as they feel they have grasped your message.

Use humour or, at least get them intrigued. The second style needs you to be fun, funny, and engaging. They need a joke or an interesting story about your topic to become engaged. The art of storytelling is vital in business, as the data can only give us a snippet of the big picture. Furthermore, as much as we professionals would be loath to admit it [even to ourselves] we are emotional beings and we make decisions based on how we feel, rather than logic, most of the time. We only need to look at our political landscape to understand that our beliefs and values guide our decisions far more than pure science and logic, for better or for worse.

Remember the greater good. People who prefer the third style need information on how your message will support the greater good, stability and/or keeping the team together. They want to know how each person has been considered. Craft your message so that they understand how this is the noble thing to do. Their commitment and concern is ensuring that everyone is cared for.

Provide data. Last, but certainly not least, people who like the fourth style want to know the facts, figures, history, science and/or leading practices in the area of your presentation. They are committed to making the best decision and they are committed to quality. They are the same audience who will need to take time to consider the data and so if you can provide them with materials ahead of time, you are much more likely to have an engaged conversation with them during your meeting. They will have analysed and considered every angle and will show up engaged.

Consider the diversity of learning styles, also, for even more impact. While some individuals are auditory learners, many others need to see or touch for the greatest impact. Ensure that you provide reading materials, visuals and even props, to make your message memorable and lasting.

- Jessica Lightbourne PCC, is a co-founder of International Coaching & Leadership Institute [ICLI], specialising in coaching BIPOC leaders to aspire to and achieve exponential career advancement. Questions? Email her at

Read More About

Category: All, Business