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Helping Leaders to find "Inner Peace": Lessons Learned from Master Shifu

Updated: Jan 2

This story happened in a parallel universe from the original story of Kung Fu Panda. One beautiful day, Master Shifu was, as usual, sitting on top of his favorite peach tree when his peace was rudely interrupted by the noises below made by Tigress and Po. Using his large ears, he listened in on their conversation.





Both Tigress and Po were both upset with themselves that they have not attained the same level of mastery as their Master Shifu. For years they have been struggling to find “inner peace”. Master Shifu has dispatched Tigress to be the leader of the Northern martial arts academy, and Po, to the Southern martial arts academy.


After listening to them for over half an hour without interrupting, Master Shifu appeared before both of them. They were shocked as they didn’t realize that their Master was above them all this time. Master Shifu told both of them since they are with him in the Mountains of Xian Xu, for the next six months of the winter season, they have to work on a project for him.

Master Shifu gave each one a few tasks to do. Collectively both have to work on some tasks together as well.


The only thing they have to remember is that the combined tasks can only start only if each of them have completed their respective areas. Po was ecstatic to get the chance to work with gorgeous Tigress. For Po, the opportunity to be near Tigress would make his day! Unfortunately, Tigress did not share the same sentiment. She loath Po for his carefree ways of approaching life.


Master Shifu told both Po and Tigress for this project to be successful; both of them must stay together alone without any interruption from the outside world. They both have to surrender their Huawei mobile phones to Master Shifu. They are to live and work together in Xian Liang cave. You could see the enormous grin in Po’s face!


Wow! I will be staying alone with Tigress for the next three months! Po didn’t see the look of disgust on Tigress face on the prospect of staying with this bumbling carefree individual!







After three months, Master Shifu summoned Po and Tigress to his courtyard. Master Shifu asked them whether they have discovered “inner peace”? Both of them answered that they have finally found “inner peace”! They needed each other to attain “inner peace”. Master Shifu beamed.


Master Shifu turned to Po and asked him what he has learned. Po shared that initially, he was so happy with Tigress. The opportunity to be with her was heaven, as she was the most beautiful person he has ever met. Po discovered after one month of enjoying the beauty of Tigress, he discovered that beauty was only skin deep. He was hurting inside and not enjoying his time with Tigress, but he didn’t show it to her.


Master Shifu listened without interrupting and asked why? Po said that his nature is always about “others before self”. The best form of sacrifice is to care about others, and then you will eventually get a reciprocate returns. However, Po soon learns that no matter how much he spent his time helping Tigress to complete her list of tasks, she never even once asked Po about his list of tasks.


Po felt that since he has showered so much attention and love for Tigress, why is she not even reciprocating? Why was she so happy that he helped her, and not once did she ask him the status of his task list? To solve this problem, Po said that he started to do even more, and completing his tasks was no longer critical.


Po’s strategy was by becoming a “role model” of showing care for others first, and pray that Tigress will eventually change.


Master Shifu then turned to Tigress and asked the same set of questions. Tigress suddenly burst out in tears. She shared that the thought of staying with Po for three months was unbearable. For one thing, Po never showered at all and being cooped up with him in the small cave was unbearable. Although Master Shifu gave them three months, she wanted to get the project done under a month.


Her focus was to get her tasks done first. Her strategy was to get Po to help her. She was glad that Po came to help her to get it done within four weeks.


Master Shifu smiled and then asked what happened next? Tigress said that she was so focused on just getting her side of the list done that she failed to realize that the next stage of the tasks hinges on both of them getting their respective tasks done. After she got her tasks done, she realized that Po has not even started his list. She was very furious at first for Po’s irresponsibility of not taking care of his interest and putting them both in danger of not delivering to Master Shifu.


That is the nature of Po, always looking out for people that he didn’t even look at his area. She was distraught because both of them have to end up working on Po’s list before they can start working on the combined tasks. It took another four weeks to get Po’s list done. After that, it took them another four weeks to get the combined tasks completed. They only managed to get everything done yesterday, precisely three months!


Master Shifu smiled and asked both of them to share their journey of finally discovering “inner peace” after three months of spending time together. Both smiled and said that not only they have found “inner peace”, they now truly understood why Master Shifu wanted them to stay together. They needed each other to be in the “zone of inner peace”.


As usual, Po was jumping up and down, holding his hand high of wanting to share. Master Shifu gave him the opportunity. Po said that he discovered that he is at the end of “others before self”. He is aware that he projects a public image of one that is always very cheerful and carefree. He confessed that he has, over the years, have on some occasions suffered very deep emotional setbacks. He expected people to also put themselves to help others more, but when that is not forthcoming, he was deeply affected by it.


Po realized that for him to find “inner peace”, he needs someone to continue to manage him and to challenge him to take care of his health, wealth, and time. He needed someone who is at the opposite end of the continuum. He needs to learn how to enjoy life, and he needs to learn how to live life, he needs to learn how to pamper himself more. These are also essential things to do for him to have a balanced “inner peace”. He was thankful for Tigress, for she was a very fierce, strong, stern, and no-nonsense person who was the only person who dares to hold the mirror to his face.


Tigress spoke next. Tigress shared that her mantra has always been for her to be successful, she needs to take care of herself first before worrying about others. She used to believe that one needs to make sure that their own house is free from dust before helping others. Tigress realized that there would never be a time where “enough is enough”. There is no limit to success as well as there is never a time where your house is entirely free from dust.


She realized that she needs someone who is at the other opposite end of the continuum to find her sanity. She needed someone who is the complete opposite. She needs to make time for Po, or otherwise, both of them will not succeed together. She realized that it is okay to share her life with Po.


Tigress shared that she learns the meaning of unconditional care from Po. Po also added that he also understands that one needs to take care of their own, and not just leave it to fate. Po learnt a lot from Tigress that sometimes you need to be a little selfish (and a very painful change for him) that you need to worry about oneself first.


Both understood now why Master Shifu wants both of them to stay together. Each is very successful in their own right, and they can live independently well without the other. However, both realized that by coming together, each would discover a greater and more purposeful life, that of “inner peace”.


In the organization, your leaders are all spread along the continuum between “self before others” to “others before self”. As Human Resource Business Partners, your concern is not so much on those leaders in the “zone of inner peace”. Your challenge is for leaders who are on operating on both ends of the continuum.


Leaders who operate “self before others” may at times not doing enough to building their team. On the other hand, leaders who are at the extreme end of “others before self” may be so caught up growing their people that they forgotten to deliver upwards! At each opposite end of the continuum, HR Business Partners must apply different coaching strategies.


In the organization, your leaders are all spread along the continuum between “self before others” to “others before self”. As Human Resource Business Partners, your concern is not so much on those leaders in the “zone of inner peace”. Your challenge is for leaders who are on operating on both ends of the continuum.


Leaders who operate “self before others” may at times, not doing enough to build their respective teams. On the other hand, leaders who are at the extreme end of “others before self” may be so caught up with the joy of growing their people that they have forgotten to deliver upwards! At each opposite end of the continuum, HR Business Partners must apply different coaching strategies.


As a HR Business Partner, there are times you need to play the role of Tigress, and other times to be Po. Our role is to help our performance leaders to get a more "balanced" approach to be successful as well as leading great teams. What they need is the right education, training, coaching, and at times mentoring session for them to discover “inner peace”. Have fun in your HR Business Partnering journey!


by Raymund Chua, Advisor, Heart 4 HR


Graphics Source: TVTropes

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