The Power of Distraction: 5 Instagram Accounts I’m Visiting While Self-Isolating

Photo by Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash

In moments such as these, a healthy distraction is one of our most valuable coping tools. Social media can serve as a self-care option, if we choose wisely.

Please know, that I’m not a huge fan of “list” posts and I don’t write many of them. (My favorite is likely this one.) These things are often so personal — and it is difficult to find a morsel that might apply to your specific life and times. However, I’m hoping this one will prove useful.

I’ve not mastered Instagram and I’m there mostly as an observer. (I occasionally throw out a random thought or photo.) However, I’ve discovered many talented people, comfortably sharing their unique visual perspective on just about every topic under the sun. Getting lost there helps me turn off the world for a time.

Here are 5 recommended accounts. I find each enriching in some way.
You can find me @marlagottschalkphd.

If you’d like, share your favorite account in comments.

1. New Yorker Cartoons / @newyorkercartoons

The New Yorker

It is a joy to observe how a brilliant cartoonist can express a mood visually, with such clarity. All politics aside, the account also shares cartoons about work, family, and a deep love for the City of New York. If you enjoy a clever caption — you’ll appreciate how the chosen words can evoke a chuckle or a nod of agreement.

2. Fondation Monet / @fondationmonet


If you are a garden lover as I am — but have little access to the approaching springtime serenade — this account will likely fit the bill. The notion that Monet lived and worked there, only makes the discovery sweeter.

3. Morgan Harper Nichols / @morganhapernichols


If you enjoy messages of positivity that go a bit beyond the surface — this account might offer you food for thought. I enjoy how this artist addresses topics such as productivity, progress and comparison. Topics which we all struggle with from time to time.

4.  Musee du Louvre / @museelouvre


If you are missing the Sunday museum experience, there are plenty of accounts that will help you pass the time. You might as well pick a far flung locale. I choose Paris. I choose Musee du Louvre. (I’ve never been.)

5. History / @History


It’s been quite some time since my last history class. I suppose it’s always the right time for a bit of a refresh. I’ve learned a thing or twenty, as well.


Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who focuses on empowering work through the development of a strong foundation. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

A Selection of Readings From The Core Masterclass


“CEO job No. 1,  is setting, micro-nourishing — one day, one hour, one minute at a time — an effective people-truly-first, innovate-or-die, excellence-or-bust corporate culture.”  – Tom Peters

Author’s note: The Core Masterclass is a virtual course, focusing on the elements that contribute to a strong work life foundation. It includes a curated reading list, targeted exercises and construct-specific behavioral guides. More information, if curious here.

An organization’s ability to respond effectively in a time of crisis is paramount. Yet, this critical marker is not one that can be summoned on demand. The elements that should be present, only develop with care & time. One form of strength that may contribute to an effective response, is an organization’s level of “core stability”. Core stability, in a sense, is the foundation required to function effectively. This foundation includes vital elements such as communication channels and resource allocation systems — elements necessary to counter-balance an onslaught of challenge & change.

In times of stress, we cannot expect to draw against an internal core that has been woefully neglected. Working with organizations after the 2008 financial crisis revealed this, but only in retrospect. If core strength had not been a focus, it was lacking — and this limited an organization’s power to respond.

Sadly, this can become quickly evident.

Following this thread, I thought it appropriate to share a few articles from the The Core Masterclass reading list. (The course focuses on the elements that contribute to core stability.) If you read my work regularly, you are likely familiar with my stance on the the need for stability, for people and teams. This list explores this notion.

While the elements that contribute to organizational core stability vs. individual core stability (for example psychological safety, etc.) are somewhat different — they work together to build productive work environments.

Happy reading. Hoping you discover a useful chord.

  1. A Blinding Flash of the Obvious, Theodore Kinni, Insights by Stanford Business.
  2. How the Growth Outliers Do It, Rita Gunther McGrath, HBR.
  3. The Best Strategic Leaders Balance Agility & Consistency, John Coleman, HBR.
  4. If You Want Engaged Employees, Offer Them Stability. Marla Gottschalk, HBR.
  5. What Leads to Organizational Agility: It’s Not What You Think. Elaine Pulakos, Tracey Kantrowitz & Benjamin Schneider, Consulting Psychology Journal: Research & Practice.

More about The Core Philosophy™ here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who focuses on empowering work through the development of a strong foundation. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

How Not to Overlook Your Team’s Best Ideas Now

Photo by Alex wong on Unsplash

I couldn’t think of a better time to remind ourselves of the potential link between resource constraints and innovation. The challenges facing organizations (in multiple sectors) during this crisis, are ominous. Yet, the environment still requires us to develop critical solutions that can impact how we deliver vital goods/services. Interestingly, resource shortages can spur innovation.

We are forced at look at what we do differently, when the game changes.

The paradox: Innovation can already be out there, yet we are unaware of it. There may already be solutions practiced by those on the front lines — those who are closest to the work. Yet the broader organization is unaware of these actions.

This is an important time to gather ideas and “hacks” that have already been applied (and are working). This should be a pressing priority.

A few thoughts:

  • Your employees = expertise. This mindset is fundamental. Those doing the work have intimate knowledge of the existing challenges. Moreover, employees independently solve problems on their own and may have discovered a “Jugaad“, a simple or frugal work-around or hack. Others may have already improvised solutions to a more complicated problem as a temporary fix — one that could be improved and used more widely.
  • Don’t overlook less-established employees. Those newer to your organization bring a different perspective concerning the way things are done. Promote a level of psychological safety that encourages everyone to contribute. Reach out to them. Remain open. Ask them, “What do you see, that I may not see?”.
  • Consider adjacent input. Those who work with you, can also help you innovate. Seek help from the functions that contribute to getting the work done. Consider adjacency, as an immediate source of potential ideas.
  • Utilize your company’s intranet as a lifeline . Recast your intranet — your internal communication mechanism — as your innovation platform. If your past “war game” scenarios have revealed weaknesses in delivering vital goods or services, gather ideas immediately — before the crisis is in full force.
  • Post challenges as they develop. Let your employees know about growing issues that require their attention. Post current challenges plainly to the entire organization of possible. This will be ever-evolving.

Hoping this helps. Leave your ideas below. You could help another organization serve others.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.



How Work (and Other Things) Might Help Us Cope Right Now.

Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash

It is March 2020. We are all struggling to establish a new normal — in times that are anything but normal.

I’ll spare you, and will refrain from sharing advice about how to work remotely. I’m wagering that many of us are well beyond this and are not open to another opportunistic pitch to build someone’s client list. We are in the midst of history being written. That alone, demands that we peel away the layers.

Many of us simply want to protect ourselves, our families and quite possibly our psychological resources. Resources such as hope, self efficacy and resilience, that can be adversely affected as we practice social distancing.

As an alternative, I’ll share few thoughts on how to stay on a somewhat even keel. (Disclaimer: These are my own. They do not have to be yours.) Not surprisingly, this does include work — and seeking a daily measure of joy. I am referring to the type of work, that feeds your soul and occupies your mind. I am also referring to the trusted elements of our lives to which we turn, when feeling unsettled.

What to try now:

  • If possible, continue to do the work you love to do. I’ve just listened to Coldplay’s Chris Martin live streaming an impromptu home-based concert at Instagram (@Coldplay). As a psychologist, I’m thankful that he can continue to share his gift to help others. Try to do the same. Work on topics that bring meaning & value to you.
  • Reach out. Limit feelings of isolation & distance. Technology can obviously work with us here. I couldn’t love Zoom more than I do today, in this very moment. I intend to contact the clients & colleagues, I’ve come to respect over the years. Utilize Facebook video to call friends who are alone (quite reliable) and text your neighbors. I’m hoping this helps in some way.
  • “Lean in” to the things that bring joy. Whether this is music, film, reading, art, walking, observing birds, podcasts, comedy, singing, blogging, or crafting. Do these things when you have a moment. James Altucher just shared his reading list as we self-isolate. Shuttered Broadway performers are singing for us. Museums have shared virtual tours. Improvise. Build these into your daily routine.
  • Complete something. Anything. When we cannot control our circumstances, self-efficacy suffers. This can lead to feelings of helplessness. While you distance, complete smaller projects/tasks that you can pace. Bring feelings of mastery into your “new normal”.

My best to everyone. We are all struggling. Share your concerns.

What are you doing right now to support your psychological foundation?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.



A Kinder Take on Goals with Positive Psychology


We all engage in goal setting. Yet goals can either help or hurt us, depending on their inherent ability to energize. New Year’s resolutions can suffer the same outcome. They are essentially goals — wrapped in a loaded, time-stamped, end-of-the-year package. As a work life strategist, I’ve harped on clients to refine or even lose goals that no longer serve them. Resolutions can also let us down, as they are often of the lofty, vague variety — and often fail to direct us in a meaningful way.

I’m wondering if we can craft work-focused resolutions that are better for us?

One strategy, is to apply what we already know about Positive Psychology. With its roots in humanistic psychology, positive psychology theorizes that we have the power to re-frame our life experiences to help us become more positive and productive. Resolutions could stand a re-framing. So let’s follow this thread.

Consider the following passage:

“Positive psychology is…a call for psychological science and practice to be as concerned with strength as with weakness; as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst; and as concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling as with healing pathology,” – Christopher Peterson

We could re-frame resolutions with a nod toward what is right — and not wrong — with our work lives. As we look toward the New Year, we might recognize what has worked well and what we have actually accomplished during the previous year. (Sustaining energy requires that we actively acknowledge the good.) Taking the time to remind ourselves of what we already have accomplished, can provide the fuel that we need to build both energy and resilience.

So — ask yourself: What brought you a sense of accomplishment during 2019? A sense of meaning? Joy?

First, carefully consider what you have already accomplished — by drafting a list of your steps already taken in the right direction. (Remember, no step is too small to acknowledge.) Celebrate the successes and take something from failures or disappointments. Secondly, craft a few behaviorally-defined steps for 2020, which build upon your progress. Try to avoid broad, overwhelming resolutions such as “Find a better job.” Be specific, yet supportive, of your on-going journey. Integrate what you have learned from both the highs and lows of 2019.

Think of yourself actively completing these resolutions. What are you actually doing?

Here’s how this might look regarding one of my 2020 resolutions: To identify/develop opportunities for collaboration regarding my work in core stability. Please note: I did not identify the right collaboration opportunity during 2019. There were stumbling blocks — yet there has been progress. Acknowledging the latter is quite important.

Progress in 2019:

  • Continued to refine concept message and mission.
  • Engaged in many useful conversations (virtually and IRL) regarding core stability as applied to both people & organizations.
  • Wrote & published the concept’s “origin story” and its guiding principles.
  • Began identifying HR/HR Tech micro-influencers whose work aligns with my own.

What’s Next in 2020:

  • Hone list of possible HR/HR Tech contacts.
  • Reach out on social media, where possible.
  • Write an email a week regarding potential collaborations.
  • Schedule one conversation per week regarding possible collabs.
  • Continue to define research parameters: subjects, scope, funding.

Let me know if this process brings you any “resolution” clarity.

Happy New Year to all of you!

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her training series The Core — helps people & organizations build a stronger work life foundation. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

The Culture Gap

Photo by Bruno Figueiredo on Unsplash

If you work within an organization or team, you may immediately identify with the following dynamic and have an inkling that you’ve lived this. At the very least, you may have found the experience frustrating. At its worst, this may have been reason enough to end your relationship a team or organization.

In 2016, I began to explore the existence of an organization’s culture core. Theoretically, the core would provide a foundation that would support not only support its people, but also the work to be done. Of late, I’ve been exploring a set of stability-enhancing constructs that may contribute to a strong, stable core. However, the potential of these constructs to have a positive impact, is not ensured.

Declared vs. Operating Culture

Stability-enhancing constructs cannot help us improve culture if there are silent obstacles blocking the path. This is not uncommon. A state where the declared culture — where what is intended or valued — is not reflected in what is actually occurring on a daily basis. Interestingly, we don’t often consider the gap between declared culture and real-time operating culture. However, the frustration that develops when a gap exists can not only affect individual contributors and teams, but the ability of the larger organization as well. In many cases, the right intention appears present, but things remain the same. The proof, so to speak, is not in the pudding. Add even a modest level of distrust, and even known obstacles are not discussed.

In a recent training delivery, we were deep in the process of exploring possible limiting factors — it became clear how these undercurrents can obstruct positive cultural intentions. Righting the course demands that we pay close attention to the cultural environment and expose its reality. If not, we are forced to function within cultures that carry along silent, negative pressure. This can be detected, in a variety of ways. We might invest in training — yet nothing seems to change. We might re-communicate the organization’s mission & values, but somehow behavior remain out of alignment. In some cases, the issues have been detected or accepted as “the way things are”, and those working within the culture may not feel empowered to share what they observe.

Identify the Undercurrent

Understanding what may stand in the way of progress is vital. This demands that we listen intently to the environments in which we work — and to those who are immersed within it. In my work with high-performance teams, this has become a key diagnostic exercise. The process is rooted in my early exposure to the auto industry and later on, to the Toyota Production System. Tantamount to Toyota’s system is the philosophy of Jidoka — where production could be stopped at any moment, if an employee detected an issue that affects quality (More here.) Jidoka is built on a deep respect for human wisdom within manufacturing environments. It supports “listening” intently to that environment. To those who understand it best.

To improve culture, we must mind the gap and listen closely.

Then we must respect what we hear.

Have you found yourself in an environment where the operating culture did not live up to the the declared culture? How did you proceed?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including the Harvard Business Review, Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Ready to work with Dr. Gottschalk? Schedule s strategy session here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who explores challenge and change in work life. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program since 2012 — her thoughts on work life and core stability have appeared in various outlets including Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Saving a Valued Employee With One Foot Out the Door

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

It’s rarely good news when a valued team member expresses serious thoughts of leaving. In some cases there may have been signs of disconnect, yet those signs were not interpreted as evidence of a deeper problem. In other cases, we’ve recognized that an employee’s experience has not been ideal, but failed to address the fallout. Ultimately,  managers are caught completely off-guard — and a response in the moment is difficult to construct. Yet, timely decisive action is necessary to avoid a one-way pass into the “departure lounge”.

One option to direct this response, is to apply the notion of core stability and the psychological constructs that contribute. This may help a manager understand where things fell apart and offer clues to a possible resolution.

Consider the case of Michael, a research analyst who had been recently promoted. His new role focused on the development of a new insight survey, which would hopefully become a strong revenue center for the organization. Michael jumped into the development phase excited and good faith, preparing the necessary business plans with supporting numbers. But, the process inexplicably stalled in upper management with no direction toward a resolution. His manager failed to notice that while Michael appeared to persevere, repeated revisions of his plan had drained his psychological resources. With his former duties re-assigned, he felt he could no longer contribute in a meaningful way. After repeated attempts to right the ship, he gave notice.

Unfortunately, becoming attuned to an employee’s level psychological capital (Hope, self-efficacy, resilience, optimism) is not as commonplace as it should be. Furthermore, breaches of the psychological contract are common and are often left undetected.

What can a manager do in these situations?

  1. Assess the damage. Sit down with your employee for a candid heart to heart. Explore the situation and inquire about the events that have created the most stress or exhaustion. Apply the construct of the psychological contract, to determine if there has been a breach of the employer-employee exchange relationship. In the case of Michael, he felt that a promise had been made to invest in his expertise, yet he was repeatedly rebuffed. On some level, he felt the organization had misled him down a dead-end path with little support.
  2. Own up. If possible, intervene. Acknowledge that you should have been more aware. If you suspect that a breach has indeed occurred, inquire what you might do to rectify the situation. For Michael, offering to serve as an advocate and exploring the obstacles standing in the way of an accepted business plan would be in order. A timely, targeted resolution to restore faith is vital. It is possible that the individual’s psychological resources can be bolstered.
  3. Ask for time. Ultimately, time is necessary to put a course of action into motion. Clarify that course and ask for time (breathing room) so they might reconsider their thoughts of leaving. In some cases, a breach of the psychological contract can be mended — but the associated emotions require time (and forward progress) to settle. In Michael’s case, the project stall couldn’t be rectified. That offered him the information needed to make an informed decision.

Sadly, not all situations can be saved. However, acting once a problem is revealed may help your employee see his or her relationship with the organization in a better light. If not, lay the groundwork for a possible return in the future.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this? Were you the manager or the employee? What happened?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who explores challenge and change in work life. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program since 2012 — her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.