My brother hated the household rule, “No cartoons after school.”
It was fine by me; I didn’t like them.
For years I’d say: “animation isn’t my thing.” But now, having just seen the movie Kung Fu Panda, I’m wondering what else I may have missed. And I’m reminded to be careful of closing my mind to something I may think “isn’t my thing.”
It’s a fun way to learn about leadership, too.
Here are 3 surprising leadership lessons from Kung Fu Panda:
1. We all learn differently
Po the Panda is different than the other Kung Fu animals. They’re all skinny; Po is portly, he loves to eat. When Master Shifu, the trainer, realises that food motivates Po, he builds food rewards into his training regime. Almond cookies are a 10-foot jump above the ground and a perfect split away. The last dim sum can be had after a fight.
With this new approach, Po starts to learn.
Do you know what motivates each of your employees? If not, why not take the time to find out? Just like Master Shifu, you might end up with an unexpected talent like Po on your team.
**Warning: Spoilers below**
2. Have faith in your ability to learn
At first, Po was apprehensive when Master Shifu asked him to show the team what he’s capable of. His response was: “Okay, I just ate so I’m still digesting. So my Kung Fu might not be as good as later on.”
Po shows us how normal it is to feel nervous and unsure when you’re new to a role. By moving through your fears, and with deliberate practice and perseverance, you start to learn.
And boy did Po learn! He excelled at Kung Fu. Eventually, he teaches it to a whole village of pandas!
Have faith in your ability to learn. It didn’t happen overnight for Po. It probably won’t for you either. It doesn’t for most. But, like Po, you have to start. Imperfect action is more than good enough.
3. Don’t be afraid of failure
Do you think mistakes are a sign of weakness? A reflection of your (in)ability? Or are they an opportunity to learn and improve your skills? When Master Shifu wants Po to become a teacher, he says: “If you do what you have always done, you will never be more than you are.”
Po is hesitant. He fails at his first class, but he doesn’t give up and keeps working hard. And Master Shifu doesn’t give up on him. Eventually, Po becomes a successful teacher. Po is fortunate to have Master Shifu. You always do better when you have someone who believes in you. And Po’s students are lucky to have Po. He’s an empathic Panda. He remembers what it’s like to be a student. He knows all too well what it’s like to fail, and how it’s an opportunity for learning and improving the skills you need to succeed.
Po is just like the clients I love to work with, providing executive coaching in Melbourne. Without the Dustin Hoffman accent, of course.
I hope you have a Master Shifu, someone who believes in you, in your corner.
And if you want to be more than you are, I hope you’re doing more than what you have always done.