For business professionals today, the "go-to" digital education vehicle is the podcast.
While YouTube videos, TED Talks and learning apps all have their place, there's something about listening to leading management professionals give their views—in the comfort of one's home, vehicle or gym—that resonates with managers who want to climb the career ladder.
"For me personally, podcasts provide valuable insights told via great storytelling, and that keeps me engaged," said Chris Bolz, CEO of Retail CRM Cloud, a software-as-a-service provider in Bavaria, Germany.
Bolz said he prefers podcasts that have fresh outlooks on management issues, even if they're not in his same industry. "That way, I can take lessons and adapt them to my own circumstances."
He's not alone.
According to Statista, a statistical data analysis firm based in New York City, 75 percent of U.S. adults "were aware" of podcasts in 2020, up from 22 percent in 2006. Furthermore, over 88 million U.S. adults listened to a podcast in 2019—a figure expected to rise to 160 million by 2023, Statista reports.
The Top Business Podcasts from Today's Business Professionals
If you're tired of Guy Kawasaki and Tony Robbins, then according to management professionals, these podcasts are for you:
Boss Better Now with Joe Mull. For Cara Silletto, president and chief retention officer at Magnet Culture, an organizational talent firm in Louisville, Ky., Boss Better is her "go-to" management podcast.
"Each week, the podcast tackles 'big boss' questions, provides boss scripts for better boss conversations, helps build camaraderie on teams, and more," Silletto said. "The show puts people at the center of everything leaders do, treats being a boss as a noble pursuit and celebrates boss 'heroes'—those management leaders who strive daily to get better and support their teams."
Silletto said Boss Better Now isn't a talking-head, rotating-guest, every-episode-sounds-the-same podcast.
"It's designed to resemble a morning drive-time radio show with recurring bits and audience participation from a business angle," she said. "Boss Better is the perfect listening companion during your workout, your commute, at the office, while cooking dinner, during travel—wherever and whenever you listen to learn."
The Talent Magnet Institute Podcast with Mike Sipple Jr. Managers can't afford to waste time on business podcasts that are too self-focused and self-promoting. Instead, they want to hear from business leaders who have specific stories to tell about the bad—think failures, errors and lessons learned—just as much as they want to hear about management strategies that work from the get-go.
"Mike brings the voice of business professionals to life in an approachable, tangible way," said Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP, vice president of HR at regional pizzeria chain LaRosa's Inc., in Cincinnati and a member of the SHRM board of directors.
In each episode, Browne said he hears the stories and experiences of real business leaders. "[That]has more value to me because it's not just theory, principle or only guests of note," he said. "Plus, the podcast intentionally explores a variety of diverse business management perspectives, so it doesn't really have a set show formula."
Browne believes that a great business podcast shares relevant examples of how work is done through a people-centric and leadership lens. "If the podcast gives the listener a strong view of people from various industries, along with their specific executive/leadership/management roles, that's a true resource for me," he said. "I enjoy podcasts where I can glean management ideas, approaches, successes and failures to consider in applying in my work. The TMI podcast hits these expectations every time."
Cold Call, from Harvard Business Review. Can a traditional case study serve as the basis for a quality business podcast?
You bet, said Arnoldas Vasiliauskas, chief innovation and product officer at Lithuania-based carVertical, a vehicle history data analytics firm.
"Essentially, Cold Call consists of Harvard Business School's legendary case studies, like how social agency managers can improve the morale of their often-overworked staffs, or how Uber is adapting its business model over time. It's all distilled into podcast form," he explained. "The idea of reading case studies makes me dizzy, but I know the knowledge I can get from a case review is highly valuable. Consequently, the moment I discovered there is a podcast all about Harvard Business School's case studies, I was sold."
Like most management leaders, Vasiliauskas is pressed for time and doesn't want to waste it on a podcast that doesn't provide value. "Case studies can be a treasure trove of useful pieces of information, but not everyone has the luxury of time to read them all, especially business professionals."
Dare to Lead with Brené Brown. For Kimberly Phan, senior data and insight manager at Movement Strategy, a social media marketing agency in New York City, the best management podcasts combine the business and culture of today's workplace.
"I enjoy Dare to Lead with Brené Brown," Phan said. "Her podcast highlights business, leadership, innovation and best management practices—all while being mindful of generosity, culture and the essence of what it means to be human. When most people think of business leadership, they tend to think of the head honcho with the corner office or the big C-Suite title. However, Brené Brown shares what truly makes a leader and that's the willingness to step up, how to put yourself out there and how to lean into courage."
Phan especially likes the way Dare to Lead focuses on management issues that shift cultures and act as catalysts for change. "I don't need famous people on a podcast," she said. "I prefer thought-provoking conversations that stimulate listeners. That's what I get the from the Brown podcast."
Skimm'd from the Couch with Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg. Taking business advice from dual entrepreneurs who launched a business from a couch?
That's the background for Skimm'd, hosted by Zakin and Weisberg, who bring aboard female business leaders to discuss everything from how women managers can best celebrate career wins to the worst advice they ever received. It's a casual, yet effective podcast that resonates with women climbing the career ladder.
"Zakin and Weisberg dive into the successes that female business leaders have experienced, but also highlight their management failures, which is equally as important," said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com, a business services company in Calabasas, Calif.
Sweeney particularly favors a section in each episode called "Skimm Your Resume" where guests walk Zakin and Weisberg through their career history, starting from the first job they ever had to present day.
"I love that feature, as it allows listeners to explore a woman's entire career journey all the way up the management ladder," she said. "Many podcasts tend to focus on what's happening right now or the story behind how someone became a success, without exploring more of their background and the first jobs they had that gave them the chance to get their foot in the door."
Brian O'Connell is a freelance writer based in Bucks County, Pa. A former Wall Street trader, he is the author of the books CNBC's Creating Wealth and The Career Survival Guide.