Elevator Floor

“As leaders, most of us want to be authentic. Doing so has been proven to increase loyalty, retention and productivity.” – Misti Burmeister

 Over the past year, I’ve had many conversations with Chris, a young man who lives in my apartment building. Though we’ve mostly discussed his issues with women, I recently saw him working away on his computer and got curious about his career path.

When I asked if he was in college, he nodded and replied, “I finish in December. My major is sociology.”

 “And then what?”

“I wa-wa-want to ma-ma-ma-manage ce-eh-leb-br-br-brities.”

 “A little slower, Chris. I didn’t catch that last part.”

He repeated himself almost verbatim … twice. Finally, I understood that he wants to manage celebrities.

After a few more minutes, I left for work. But when I ran into him a couple hours later, I had more questions. “We’ve talked a lot over the past year,” I said. “Not once have I heard you stutter.”

“Yeah,” he replied. ”I st-st-stutter when I ge-get n-nervous.” He took a breath and continued, “If I`m not 100-percent confident about where I am in life, or what I`m talking about, I stutter.”

“Wow, that’s awesome,” I said. “You have a built-in self-confidence checker.”

He looked at me, clearly puzzled.

“You stutter when you think you’re supposed to know something or be something that you’re not,” I explained. “It’s your body’s way of telling you to just be who you are. It’s a gift!”

His face lit up at the idea that he had something special and rare, which is true. Few people have such an obvious trigger that lets them – and everyone around them – know when they’re nervous or self-conscious.

However, if we pay attention, most of us have our own “tells” – ways that we alter our behavior when we’re feeling uncomfortable or disempowered, or when we’re acting out of integrity with who we are. When we pay close attention, we can identify those triggers and use them as our gateways to self-mastery and our authentic selves.

A mentor recently helped me see that I get loud (well, louder than usual) when I’m afraid that somehow I’m not good enough, special enough or successful enough. Now that I know this about myself, I can pay attention and shift my limiting thoughts when I notice that I’m suddenly speaking louder.

As leaders, most of us want to be authentic. Doing so has been proven to increase loyalty, retention and productivity. 

If you can’t figure out your inauthenticity triggers, ask for feedback from a few trusted mentors/colleagues/friends. Explain that you want to better understand yourself and how you come across, and that you would greatly appreciate any candid feedback they might have on a few questions: 

  1. Have you noticed a “thing” I do when I’m clearly nervous or simply not being myself?
  2. When am I the most authentic?
  3. When am I the least authentic?

Regardless of your experience, job title or financial success, you’ll get closer to your authentic self – where you are the most empowered and empowering – by getting curious about what your body/brain is telling you.

So, what’s your stutter?

P.S. You’ll never find all your stutters. That’s what life is for.

Keeping it simple,

Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations and Hidden Heroes.