PODCASTS get a bad name. No matter what pub you drink in, you’re only ever at most two tables down from a bloke with a podcast.

To the outsider, it’s a world of rambling, self-indulgent broadcasting populated by people who don’t get told “no” often enough. 

As a podcast host myself, I can confirm that it’s also this to the insider.  

There are, however, plenty of gems to be found. Time spent soaking up the wisdom of talented, engaging people who have led fascinating lives can equip you with valuable life lessons. 

Or, at the very least, get The Adam Buxton Podcast’s insanely catchy theme tune permanently lodged in your brain. 

One story I heard on a podcast in August 2020 resonated with me more than almost anything I’ve heard in the last few years.

I’d like to say it came from a renowned professor recounting his experiences in academia before introducing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.1 on Desert Island Discs, but this insight was actually delivered by the guy who played Chris on The Sopranos. 

Follow Michael Imperioli on Instagram and you’ll soon realise he’s a wildly different animal from his most beloved character. 

The actor’s regular posts are as likely to feature Buddhist wisdom, punk icons and messages of support for marginalised groups as they are Sopranos nostalgia.

The man is clearly a deep thinker, and a point he made during episode 19 of his Talking Sopranos podcast stopped me in my tracks.

Speaking to his former Sopranos and Goodfellas co-star Lorraine Bracco, Imperioli recounted his experience on the classic Martin Scorsese film

He said: “I didn’t have a lot of experience in film, but he made me feel so much that I belong there, and nobody knew me from anywhere. 

“He made me feel like I belonged there, I was an actor and I should just have fun. 

“I’m forever grateful for that experience, because he could have destroyed me, if he was not who he is. I felt like I could do whatever and try stuff. I felt so welcome, and by the cast too, by Joe (Pesci) and Ray (Liotta) and Bob (De Niro). It was wonderful”. 

Bracco recalled a conversation with her friend Sebastian Maniscalco upon his being asked to audition for Scorsese’s 2019 epic The Irishman. 

The comedian admitted to being petrified of working alongside the legendary director, and drawing upon her Goodfellas memories Bracco told him: “Listen to me. These guys want you to get the job. They do not want to hurt you. They want the BEST of you”. 

After his audition, Maniscalco told her: “You were right. They wanted me to be good. They get the best out of everyone”. 

Imperioli replied: “[They’re] making you feel welcome, so you relax, so you will create and you will open and you won’t shut down, because when there’s tension, I find I shut down. You don’t want to take a risk, you don’t want to take chances.”

De Niro and Scorsese have spent decades at the very top of their profession. 

If they chose to bully and intimidate those below them in the pecking order, their power is such that they would be allowed to get away with that behaviour while their victim would be cast out for being “difficult”. 

It’s to their credit that they seek to bring out the best in those around them rather than intimidate them.

If these wildly successful screen icons are capable of providing that level of support and encouragement, what’s the excuse for middle-managers in offices to rule through fear and intimidation?

Why perpetuate a climate of anxiety and tension when, as has been proven time and again by leaders in various creative fields, the best results can be gained by treating people with respect and making them feel valued?

Maybe some people are motivated by spite, revenge or the desire to prove someone wrong, but I suspect I’m among the majority in producing my best work when I know the person I’m working for believes in me. A bollocking might lead to the task getting completed on time, but it acts as a barrier to creativity. 

As Imperioli said, if you’re relaxed you’ll feel able to take risks and, ultimately, create better work.

In a toxic workplace, turnover will be high and all you’ll preside over is a conveyor belt of shell-shocked staff producing unremarkable work until they burn out and leave. 

Had Scorsese been the tyrant that his stature within that industry would have allowed him to be, Imperioli and Bracco might have said their lines and hit their marks, but their performances would have been less memorable. 

After Imperioli’s Spider stands up to Pesci’s Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas, De Niro’s Jimmy offers him positive reinforcement, saying: “Attaboy! I got respect for this kid. He’s got a lot of f****** balls. Good for you!”

Jimmy’s words visibly put a spring in young Spider’s step, clearly demonstrating to viewers that a small supportive gesture can make a big difference. 

The fact that Tommy violently murders Spider seconds later is neither here nor there.