The Return   //   April 30, 2024

How companies can avoid creating an accidental manager: The Return podcast, season 3, episode 2

The Return is a podcast about returning to the office. In season 3 we explore the reason for the burden on middle managers, why it hasn’t lessened in 50 years, and how this layer of the workforce can finally get the support it needs. More from the series →

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In the sports world, the best players don’t always make the best coaches. 

Wayne Gretsky is called hockey’s “Great One” for a reason. As a player, he won 4 Stanley Cups and 9 MVP awards. But what some people may not know is that he also coached in the NHL. In his four seasons coaching the Phoenix Coyotes, they didn’t make the playoffs once.

That story often repeats itself. Magic Johnson is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He won 5 NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and an Olympic gold medal as part of the 1992 Dream Team. After his retirement, he also tried his hand at coaching. He resigned after only 16 games. 

It’s the same truth for the business world, too.

Just because you are good at a particular skill doesn’t mean that you would make a good manager. So, why is that the standard career path for so many in the corporate world? And how can companies avoid creating an “accidental manager”?

To answer those questions, I spoke with Cary Cooper. He’s a professor of organizational psychology and health at the University of Manchester, the author of “Wellbeing at Work: How to Design, Implement and Evaluate an Effective Strategy,” and former president of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Across six episodes, season three of The Return explores why middle managers are constantly overwhelmed and what needs to be done to help this cohort of workers who are arguably the most important to a company’s DNA.

We will explore topics including the need for training, where managers can find support, how they navigate tough conversations, and how AI is helping them free up their time to focus on the people part of management.

Season three of The Return is hosted by Cloey Callahan, senior reporter at Digiday Media’s WorkLife, and produced by Digiday Media’s audio producer Sara Patterson. Subscribe to the WorkLife podcast now on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.