Dr. Woodie Flowers, FIRST National Advisor and co-founder of FRC, asks:

“Why do FIRST folks talk so much about that phrase?”

Obviously it would not make sense to endorse ‘asinine professionalism’ or ‘gracious incompetence’. It is, however, completely consistent with the FIRST spirit to encourage doing high quality, well-informed work in a manner that leaves everyone feeling valued. Gracious professionalism seems to be a good descriptor for part of the ethos of FIRST. It is part of what makes FIRST different and wonderful.

Gracious professionalism has purposefully been left somewhat undefined because it can and should mean different things to each of us. We can, however, outline some of its possible meanings. Gracious attitudes and behaviors are win-win. Gracious folks respect others and let that respect show in their actions. Professionals possess special knowledge and are trusted by society to use that knowledge responsibly. Thus, gracious professionals make a valued contribution in a manner pleasing to others and to themselves.

In FIRST, one of the most straightforward interpretations of gracious professionalism is that we learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. We try to avoid leaving anyone feeling like they are losers. No chest thumping barbarian tough talk, but no sticky sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, pride, and empathy comfortably blended.
Understanding that gracious professionalism works is not rocket science.

It is, however, missing in too many activities. At FIRST, it is alive and well. Please help us take care of it. In the long run, gracious professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. If one becomes a professional, and uses knowledge in a gracious manner, everyone wins. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you have acted with integrity and sensitivity.

That’s good stuff!