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I create and deliver speeches and capability programs that lift the project performance of individuals and organisations.

Project Managers - Who is your Apollo Creed?

The Conscious Project Leader Blog

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Project Managers - Who is your Apollo Creed?

Colin Ellis

There are those projects that make you feel like Rocky; overcoming adversity, building mental strength, listening and learning from your team, then succeeding despite your seriously puffy eyes (tears AND punches) before heading back home to quietly celebrate. ADRIAN!

But mostly Project Management is like the early stages of Rocky III.

Rocky - fresh from his success over Apollo Creed in Rocky II (who knew?!) and hugely positive media treatment - gets a rude awakening as man mountain Thunderlips (a pre-reality TV Hulk Hogan) lifts him off the floor by this throat then smashes him about in an exhibition bout.

I mean, there was the warning, how the hell did he miss that?

Thunderlips is obviously technically good at what he does but Rocky should be on his toes rather than expecting him to play nice. Of course, Rocky bounces back and it's called a draw before Thunderlips gets all friendly on him (wrestlers are like that apparently) leaving Rocky confused.

He doesn't learn. Rocky continues to coast and is intimidated then publicly humiliated by challenger Clubber Lang (Mr T) before getting absolutely mullered by him in the ring. Rocky - broken and lacking motivation - doesn't know what to do. His 1000 year old trainer Mickey carks it (how he survived Rocky II I'll never know) following a pre-fight shove from Clubber, but worse than that his brother-in-law Paulie has taken a dislike to his fame and started wearing fur coats. Horrible.

Rocky is reduced to a jibbering wreck. Things get so bad that he throws a motorcycle helmet at a statue of himself. Hey, we've all been there.

Just when all seems lost, enter Rocky's old nemesis, Apollo Creed to help him get back to the top. Creed tries humour (fails miserably), then passion (has more success with that) and convinces him he can be the best again. He takes him to see the fire and enthusiasm in the young boxers at his old gym and when that doesn't work he takes him down to the beach, obviously. That's definitely what I would have done.

Following a volley from Adrian - frankly, he had it coming - they get down to it. Skipping, bobbing, weaving, swimming (the worst butterfly stroke ever) and lots of sweating, culminating in a bromance in the ocean. All very powerful and moving and that's just the music. See/listen for yourself. 

 Apollo gives Rocky his self belief back. He reminds him of how he got to be good at what he does. He shows him that a return to basics is the best way to react in times of doubt. And he gets him to wear a flashdance-type headband whilst training, although that's not that relevant here.

And you know the rest. If you don't, the fact that there is a Rocky IV (memorable for it's soundtrack), Rocky V (more of a parody) and Rocky Balboa (he's being coaxed off his zimmer frame) should give you a hint.

Under Apollo's honest, firm guidance, Rocky trains hard and regains his championship belt. Clubber Lang falls in with a bad bunch making all kinds of artillery from scrap metal. Adrian regains the man she fell in love with. Paulie thinks Rocky's boss again and swaps the fur for leather (this guy just doesn't get it) and Apollo gives him that 'I knew you could do it smile'. Brilliant and all totally believable.

When it's good, project management (I'm finished with the tenuous Rocky analogy now) is the best profession in the world. You just can't beat the feeling, you really can't. But when it's tough, you need help and where better to look for that help than from someone who has been there before. Someone who understands what it's like to have their confidence dented; to face issues for which there are no obvious solution options; to have their leadership and patience constantly tested and to have others actively undermine what they were striving hard to create. They've been there and done that and they want to help you through it.

Don't wait until it's too late, invest a small amount of money in some coaching, get back in the ring and put yourself back in contention.

There aren't many projects where you'll face Hulk Hogan AND Mr T, but rather than pity the fool, I'm one of many professional coaches who are here to help project managers. Check your corner, I'm the guy with a towel round my neck urging you on. I can be your Apollo Creed. Just don't expect any beach races; I get shin splints so you'll win really easily and that's the last thing I want.

This blog starred in order of appearance:

Rocky:  Project Manager

Thunderlips:  Project Sponsor

Clubber Lang:  Business Analyst, vendor, Designer, could be anyone really

Adrian:  Long suffering partner who has to listen to the boring PM stories

Paulie:  I'm struggling now, probably a badly dressed Project Manager