Show off

I’ll never forget playing basketball in middle school (in part because that’s one of the last times I played basketball…). We had a great team and a great coach, the only problem is that I wasn’t a starter.

It pissed me off because I felt like I was a better player than the guy who had the starting spot for my position (sorry Chase). To vent my frustrations in practice when the coach wasn’t around, I would take great pleasure in working him — pure, unadulterated, immature showboating.

It was great. Until game time, when I would sit my showboating jersey on the bench…

One day in practice, the coach was walking us through a new play and we were simulating the reaction of the defense. When the defense (Chase) shifted, the coach paused to discuss possible options.

Seeing what was obvious to anyone with even a little experience playing basketball, I explained that I would just back cut my defender and move towards the basket. The coach paused and regrouped after saying, “ok good, I didn’t know you would do that.”


There was my problem: the person who most needed to know my skills was oblivious to them, and I spent energy trying to embarrass my teammate when I could have been addressing the real problem, which was my skills not being on display.

What an idiot.

Now as for you: perhaps you have a superpower that your boss doesn’t know about, such as technical writing or business development. Maybe you have secretly taught yourself a new role and you feel like you could add value to your team by lending your new talents. I don’t know what it is, but I’m not the one who needs to know.

This post is a friendly kick in the pants for you: speak up, stop being unnecessarily modest, and show us what you’ve got.

Willie Jackson is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Consultant & Facilitator with ReadySet, a boutique consulting firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a frequent writer and speaker on the topics of workplace equity, global diversity, and inclusive leadership. Connect on LinkedIn or get in touch.

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