How to Get Unstuck

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Markus Neukom

Careers never follow a straight path. There are ups, there are downs, and there are wild circles and zig-zags. 

But what happens when the path just… stops? 

What happens when we get stuck in a position or a state of mind for so long that it begins to feel permanent? How can we shake off that feeling of paralysis, and get moving again?

Today we sit down with Markus Neukom, a leadership coach, business strategist, and CEO who specializes in helping leaders get unstuck, enabling them to create meaningful, lasting change for themselves and their organizations.

Learn more about Markus and his company, Markus Neukom International, here:

Key Points

  • HR and its role within an organization 
  • How to get unstuck as a leader with three steps: get clarity, short circuit your paralysis, and leverage your resources.
  • Are we being honest with ourselves? And are changes on the cards for us right now? A reflection.

**There are a lot of management models and theories out there, and they all sound great. The problem is that they can be heavy on theory, which we don’t always know how to implement impractical terms. For example: What can you do concretely on a Tuesday afternoon to work better with your colleagues?

People need actionable advice – things they can start doing next week. That’s where Management 3.0 comes in. We have modules, practices, a membership community, and Forward Conferences. We have everything you need in your leadership journey as you seek to produce tangible, real-world results. Learn more about Management 3.0 here:


*Please note that the transcript has been automatically generated and proofread for mistakes. But remains in spoken English, and some syntax and grammar mistakes might remain.

Elisa Tuijnder: [00:00:00] Careers never follow a straight path. There were ups, there are downs, there are wild circles, and even zig zags. But what happens when the path just stops? What happens when we get stuck in a role over a rung of the ladder or even a state of mind? For so long that it begins to feel permanent, how can we shake off that feeling of paralysis and get moving again?

Today we sit down with a CEO coach and business strategist who specializes in helping leaders get unstuck and create meaningful lasting change, not only for themselves, but for their colleagues and employees as well.

Before we dive in, you are listening to The Happiness At Work Podcast by Management 3.0 where [00:01:00] we are getting serious about happiness.

I’m your host, Elisa Tuijnder, Happiness Enthusiast and Management 3.0. Team member. In this podcast, we share insights from industry experts, influencers, and thought leaders about what it takes to be happy, motivated, and productive at work. So that loving your job becomes the norm and not the exception. We will be publishing every fortnight on Friday, so be sure to tune in and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Our guest today is Markus Neukom, a leadership coach, business strategist, and CEO of Markus Neukom International. Thank you so much for joining us today, Markus.

Markus Neukom: Thank you very much for having me. It’s my pleasure. Hey.

Elisa Tuijnder: [00:02:00] So you’ve had a fascinating journey in your career and I’m very excited to talk to you about it all today.

But we always start with the same question on this podcast, and that is what does happiness mean to you?

Markus Neukom: Happiness means to be able to do what I want and to let just decide what I don’t want. That was basically freedom of choice and freedom of time. That’s basically happiness for me.

Elisa Tuijnder: Oh, fantastic. Hey, so before we talk about the work that you do now, we always like to get into why people are the way they are and how they got their journey as is About 20 years ago I believe you were working as a human resources executive.

How did your journey evolve and how did you get interested at first as well in human resources?

Markus Neukom: I would say at least humans who were, that was something I always was interested. Yeah, my mom was a nurse, my dad was a sales professional. So I was always very keen on working with people [00:03:00] and, having a mom as a nurse helping is pretty much in your DNA.

So that’s a very strong thing. Oh, it was a very strong thing. So when I had the chance to go into HR I gladly jumped on it. And what was interesting, I had this one day, I was in a company where we basically let people go because of profit reasons, not so much because of poor performance.

And one night when we actually had to let someone go my counterparts from the management team. He came to me and said, Markus, now this guy actually wouldn’t need you, but it is impossible because you are partial. You are representing the company and you just actually had to fire him.

So that was pretty much laying a seed for what was to come many years later. Because I didn’t leave like right away. But that was pretty much [00:04:00] the kickoff in my brain and mind and soul when I started asking myself, is this it or is there maybe more to my life? Yeah. So that was the guiding question.

Literally follow me to this day. Yeah. I

Elisa Tuijnder: do feel that often a lot of people who do multiple things throughout their life, they feel like they still pick and choose things from what they learned there. And do you feel that’s the case? Do you still take a lot of your human resource skills I will say, or do you still take them with you?

Markus Neukom: You see what’s really interesting it helps me in my daily work. So you imagine if I were with managers and leaders, I sometimes can be almost a conduit between their HR and their policies and themselves and in the same way with the with the employees themselves when I work with them.

Yeah, I have learned a lot during my years in HR. Definitely. And especially you see the understanding is I used to teach [00:05:00] HR personnel development and I had this really wonderful female HR people come into my classes and I asked them, why do you want to work in personnel development? And most of them said, because I want to help people.

I want to help them grow. And I said, that’s beautiful, but have you ever wondered what personality development is really here for? It’s the development of the potential on behalf of the company for the best of the company. And if it does serve an individual, that’s beautiful. So that actually helps me still today doing my job because, if I hadn’t been in HR, I probably would be a little bit more romantic about what I’m doing and I would be doing a disservice to my clients.

So sometimes it actually helps me to be a little bit sobering. If that makes sense.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Hey, so for our listeners, maybe we wanna cuz we’re talking about [00:06:00] that you’re not doing that anymore, but you moved into specifically, leadership coaching and getting people to unstuck, get unstuck leaders.

So maybe you wanna talk a little bit about how Yeah. How that came about and. What drove you to it? What attracted you into doing it? I think, your story already gave me something, so that’s some inspiration I think towards that. But also understanding. But yeah.

Markus Neukom: It’s really interesting, what happened and took place that one night when that manager said, look, you actually needs you started spinning in my head.

It didn’t leave me anymore and it’s actually rather a strange story, which led me to it because at that time I was a human resources manager and we had a party from HR and I had an interaction with my director. She was a little bit inebriated and she asked me a question and she said, Markus, you have 300 people in your [00:07:00] department.

How many do you think and have their own opinion in the company? And I looked at her and realized now it’s getting serious. And she sat with a slurring voice, 299. You don’t. So she basically said HR has to play a role. And I believe that’s why HR is really well paid because you really give up a lot of your personality.

You give up a lot of your freedom and. Pretty much the next day I went to her office and asked for an audience and she said, sorry, I’m very busy. So I turned around, was about to walk away, turned around again and said, B, I’m resigning. And she immediately had time for me. So then when we talked about my philosophy, no, I came up with a concept called Human Resources Management.

No, that’s so many years back. Probably 20 years or more. And she said, [00:08:00] look, I really loved your idea, but unfortunately I have to tell you, you will have to leave the company to be able to implement something like that. You won’t be accepted in your own company trying to do something. At that moment it sounded very revolutionary.

Yeah, today is pretty much common sense. So that’s when I decided to be open and suddenly I received the phone calls from an acquaintance of mine I made a couple of years ago and she said, Hey, would you know someone could be interested in becoming my co-managing director in a in an out placement company?

And I said, good. I need to stop and look at it , and I over looked at it and I called her back the next day and said, you know what? Her name was B as well. And I said, Hey, what about actually me applying for that job myself? And yeah, that led to one to the other. And suddenly I found myself six months later [00:09:00] as the senior vice president of that company in Switzerland.


Elisa Tuijnder: it’s funny how sometimes those things comes along when they need it. Yes. My,

Markus Neukom: my life is pretty much I would say fate somehow. And coincidences, things playing together in the universe and serendipity I feel very fortunate about that. Absolutely. And in terms of that in my life.


Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. Absolutely. And I think, yeah, sometimes, yeah, the universe provides with some opportunity and maybe that opportunity would’ve been there at another at the same time, but you would’ve probably not wouldn’t register because you were not ready for it. Might not be this magical thing, but it’s Yeah, sometimes.

Yeah. Yeah. So you do a lot of work with leaders getting unstuck, right? What does that mean for you? In what sense do they need to get unstuck? Where are they stuck?

Markus Neukom: So let me share with you how they usually approach [00:10:00] me. There is one common theme throughout all my clients. It’s the land that the question, is this as good as it gets or is their more too life.

So they wake up one day, look at themselves in the mirror, don’t like anymore what they see, go to the office, look at the people they don’t like anymore about, they see, and then they, there must be more. So I don’t have many clients, had many clients who said, look, I don’t believe there is more. All of my clients actually knew.

There must be more. So tapping into, so they come to me and. Quite often if I look at where they’re stuck in terms of management. They’re in terms of their teams, in terms of dealing with their superiors, in terms of dealing with their coworkers. So you can imagine if you are at the point where you say, can this be it?

Or is there more to life? You are not really vibrant. You are not open to [00:11:00] solutions, so you automatically get stuck. And what’s interesting, quite often they land with me when their private life starts suffering. So it’s other people telling them, a wake up call. Yes, exactly. Like Markus. I really believe you should see someone because we cannot continue like that anymore.

So those are pretty much the areas. They’re stuck with themselves. They’re stuck with their spouses partners, stuck with their superiors, stuck with their coworkers, stuck with their employees, and what’s really interesting, Elisa, is quite often performance report actually lead them to me because the company starts noticing and they say, Hey, something has to go.

So that is something that happens quite often.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. And how do you approach that then? Is it a very personal approach per manager or per leader? Talk me through it a little bit more practically. It’s

Markus Neukom: [00:12:00] pretty much, it pretty much is individual and it’s not at the same time. When I left corporate I was fortunate enough to have a one year sabbatical, and that’s actually where I created all my concept and I created a five step concept, which I, in the meantime have divided down to three steps.

So the steps are get clarity, short circuit your inner paralysis and leverage your resources. So as you can imagine, when those people come to me, they are very much in an inner paralysis. So they wish that I could snip my finger or, wave a want and clarity is here, but it’s not. So I tell them, look, we have to get clear, and clear means we have to get honest.

So this is fortunately something which I have probably since childhood, that [00:13:00] people trust me extremely quickly. Yeah. Otherwise I couldn’t do my job. Yeah. Because, there is, this is one thing about me. What is what you get. So I tell my clients very clearly, look, you pay me for my honesty.

You will pay me much less if I would lie to you. But my honesty actually has a price. Yes, exactly. And I said, look, that’s the only way how you actually get free and how you can start prospering. So if it really comes down to brass tacks, what is useful to get, we talk about clarity. One of my methodology is I mirror people.

I tell them what I see. I question them, I challenge them, and then we suddenly come to the real paralysis in the paralysis. And then I help them with my proprietary method to short circuit that. And ones that short circuited, they suddenly realized, gosh, now I have [00:14:00] endless potential around me. And then I help them with leveraging their resources.

So in a nutshell, that’s the, that’s my process. That’s

Elisa Tuijnder: how I do it. Yeah. I’m wondering whether this inner paralysis, like what I’m hearing you talk, so I can totally come up with a number of examples in my head as well. But is that often something that actually. Not that I like dividing work and home life as much is, they intertwine very much.

But where does it often stem from? Is it more like something personal happening and then just sipping into this work site? Or is it more the opposite? I’m wondering.

Markus Neukom: It is a very interesting question. And you might be surprised about my answer. It actually mostly stems from childhood. Okay.

Yeah. So interesting enough, that’s what many clients have mind tell me. I always had that it wasn’t evident and it wasn’t visible. So basically this inner paralysis has a lot to do with what we [00:15:00] believe is true about ourselves, about the world, about the workplace, about society.

And interestingly enough, it literally comes down to. I dunno about you, but I admitted like I’ve been a master of lying to myself.


Elisa Tuijnder: I suffer massively from imposter syndrome as all that time.

Markus Neukom: I think we all do. Exactly. So sooner or later it literally comes to the point. And you see what actually really interesting is, especially when I worked with men, the female, it’s different.

But with male is often there is a guilty party and that’s not me. So it must be either my boss, it must be my coworkers, or it must be my employee. Yeah. And then I say, look, do you really like to be a victim? And then they look at me quite puzzled. I said, that’s actually what you’re doing. Yeah, exactly what you’re doing.

You’re putting yourself into a position of victim. My employees don’t do. That’s why I can’t. My boss does. That’s why I can’t, my coworkers do. [00:16:00] That’s why I am stuck. I said, that’s . Sorry, my friend’s. Just bullshit. No, it’s total and utter bullshit. And then when they get to the point and realize, gosh, there is actually merit to what this guy is saying, then they start opening up and talking about what’s really going on.

And once they realize that they are in this in paralysis, quite often unconsciously, halfway consciously, but they stay there very often by choice. That’s when the healing part kicks in.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny sometimes that just pointing that out can make a world of difference, right? Yes.

Markus Neukom: And

Elisa Tuijnder: it takes guts.

Yeah. Yeah. It just, yeah. Obviously. Yeah. It’s scary to

Markus Neukom: be honest. Sometimes it even freaks to me out after 20 years. Yes. I imagine. You see though, you, you’re shattering someone’s world. They come to you, polished, with the tie and everything, they polish and suddenly they get confronted by, [00:17:00] let’s stop bullshiting ourselves.

Yeah. It’s the same if I work with a man and say, look, it’s not your partner, it is you who decides how to react or not to react. Yeah. The partner might be the trigger, the boss might be the trigger, the employee might be the trigger. But it’s in your power, how to react. And that’s when I start short circuiting literally bringing back the power which they have delegated to someone else, victimized themselves, taking the power back and they suddenly feel empowered.

It’s actually the same with women and as you just mentioned imposter syndrome. It’s huge. Huge thing. And interesting enough in all levels of hierarchy. Yeah. Yeah. I would say it hits as many male managers as it hits female, but male. Just don’t talk about it and don’t admit it.

Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah, don’t acknowledge it.

Don’t, yeah, exactly. That’s why I really enjoyed this kind of [00:18:00] movement of authentic leadership and kind of, people, me too. Making, being more vulnerable and making sure that they’re not, or showcasing that they’re not some kind of demigod at the top. Yeah,

Markus Neukom: exactly. That we have to aspire This last night, I posted a link saying that I was surprised.

I immediately had more than 20 feedback. And what was interesting is I asked them, what is it? It was about sign and resigning and all that kind of stuff and why people leave and what do you do in terms of hiring? And I was surprised how many really seasoned senior managers came back saying, look, in the end, it comes down to we literally don’t know how to do it and what to do.

We went to uni, we have an mba. We might have a doctorate. But really that authentic, it’s not just a title, authentic management. It is something that has to be taught [00:19:00] because authenticity and vulnerability, they go together. Absolutely. So we’ve not been taught to be vulnerable, so we have a lot of work ahead of us.

I’m excited. Yeah,

Elisa Tuijnder: we do have a lot of work ahead of us. It’s definitely not done yet.

There are a lot of management models and theories out there, and they all sound great. The problem is that there’s a lot of theory, which we don’t always know how to implement in practical terms. For example, what can you do concretely on a Tuesday afternoon to work better with your colleagues? So people need actionable advice, things they can start doing next week.

And that’s where Management 3.0 comes in. We have modules, practices, a membership [00:20:00] community, and forward conferences, everything to help you in your leadership journey and tangible results. Check it out on the website.

Hey, so what kind of results do you see when people finally have this revelation like this? Is this some kind of magical moment that they can keep going and you’ll probably see like results on a personal level, but you’ll also see results on a business level. So what does

Markus Neukom: that entail?

You see what’s really amazing If I look at who sees it the first and who actually recognizes the change, the first, it’s usually their coworkers and it’s their partners as well as children very often I would say my clients, they recognized it the last, which is quite interesting. [00:21:00] And once they start getting feedback in terms of, hey, Congratulations because, a while ago you would have reacted entirely different and they suddenly, get their employees to do something they could never have done get them to do.

Or the spouse suddenly gives feedback like, Hey, it’s really cool that you didn’t flip out. You stay calm with the kids. So I would say it’s literally the outer world. Starts mirroring them and then slightly they start to believe it. Oh, Markus, could this reading be that I am changing?

Because they don’t dare even to believe that it’s possible. Because, they’re, sometimes, I would say most of my clients just somewhere between 35 and 55, so they’ve been in that hamster wheel for, 20,30, 40 years, right? So [00:22:00] Yeah. Yeah.

Elisa Tuijnder: Absolutely. Is you also help clients, improve in a multitude of different ways, from alliance building, collaboration, time management, workplace diversity, talent recognition, et cetera, et cetera.

Correct. What in your experience, do you think are the most common challenges at the moment or the most common aspirations for leaders? What are they looking for the most at the moment? And it probably has changed a lot over the last few years, but yeah. What’s your take on that?

Markus Neukom: Yeah, I would say that post pandemic definitely has changed quite some values and aspirations. What is interesting, many of my clients, they, they signal that they want more autonomy, they want more freedom, and they suddenly realize, so I flipped the coin for a sec. They suddenly realized, okay, with freedom comes a price with autonomy comes a price.

It’s not given for free. Like when people say [00:23:00] let’s be honest leader is not a title leader has to be earned. So it’s pretty much that way. Absolutely. So where they’re mostly stuck is definitely with their employees. As you can imagine, least very often being stuck with your team won’t actually get you promoted.

So they want more from life and I would say the past pandemic almost triggered something in them, which probably blatantly was there all the time. But what’s interesting is it’s almost like a little gremlin that woke up now and won’t shut up anymore. But the companies are not there yet because, just because I want to doesn’t mean I can’t.

So that’s where they come into a conflict themselves in terms of, okay. That’s where I am to come in very often and tell them, look, I just have to show you what is really going on. You have that huge desire, you have that huge potential, [00:24:00] but you cannot show it in the company, and as long as you can’t show it, that’s where imposter syndrome comes in, by the way, as well.

Yeah. The company will not take notice of you. Oh, the company won’t promote you. So it’s pretty much an inner freedom broke up. Imagine the picture, like you have a road and suddenly this little green plant pushes through the concrete. That’s pretty much it. Now it’s about nurturing that little plant and making sure that other people start noticing it.

Yeah. So does that answer your question? Yeah. Yeah. I don’t think it’s a complex, it’s a

Elisa Tuijnder: complex question. And there was also, it’s a bit of a cheeky question because I think cuz it’s different for everywhere and you work internationally, it totally depends. Yeah. Depends

Markus Neukom: where you are and Yes.

But it’s good. And I mainly work in the US

Elisa Tuijnder: which Yeah. Which might have different challenges than, it does have in Europe or Southeast Asia. Yeah. It’s [00:25:00] always something absolutely true. Yeah. Hey, on a personal note, do you feel like you, your work as a coach and a strategist has continued to impact you as well?

Are you still you’re feeling that you’re learning and growing and using these methods basically on yourself? Every

Markus Neukom: now and again, I literally say Elisa, I am still my best client. Fantastic. Yeah, because you see, when I left corporate I had a burnout. And I remember I was sitting in Italy, went to Italy with my wife, and I was sitting out in the lawn and I thought, okay, what’s next?

That’s where the question came from is to say is there more to life. It became very evident and that’s actually where I started taking all my 20 years of being in business and started re almost like re-engineering everything. And that’s how I personally got out of my burnout. Yeah.

Otherwise [00:26:00] I probably would’ve ended up really badly. Yeah. Because then you, gosh, my method really works because I’m a living proof. So

Elisa Tuijnder: Pfuh then, there’s something to it and Fantastic. That’s helped you and has managed to help many other people. Yeah. At the same time then, and let’s

Markus Neukom: Nice have reflect from so many friends who are coaches as well.

So Yeah. I believe your work never stops. No,

Elisa Tuijnder: and I think actually anybody who answers the question saying oh no, yo, I’m done. That’s probably not a good coach

Markus Neukom: then. Nope. Nope. Definitely not. Exactly.

Elisa Tuijnder: Hey, thanks for that little personal story as I’ll add illustrating that. We always like to end our podcast or like our last question always to be something really tangible.

Cuz we, we often talk about big concepts and big problems in life. Yeah. But we also really want people to leave the podcast or let stop listening to it with, Hey, maybe I can start trying to do that [00:27:00] tomorrow or maybe next week without having to, have this massive overhaul or massive senior buy-in.

I know we’ve talked about a few things like your different strategies, but they still are quite big and abstract, so maybe you could try and yeah, give us something that would help leaders trying to get on that path of getting unstuck or trying to climb out, or maybe even the ones who are potentially thinking about getting some

Markus Neukom: help.

It’s, it is really a tricky question because you see in the field where I work, I came to the conclusion. Each individual can do a lot about themselves and for themselves. They can ask themselves questions, they can have a chat with partners, they can have a chat with friends. But unfortunately, sooner or later you will get to a point where you feel there are no real answers.

So no quick fixes. Yes, exactly. And that’s the thing, like when someone tells me, help me to deal with my employees. Okay. [00:28:00] Like how many months do you have time? Oh, I saw 15 minutes will be enough. Like quick stick. No, it doesn’t work. So I would say it really starts with asking yourself, is this it or is their more to my life?

Yeah. And then to be honest, then to listen, because the universe will talk to you when you ask that question. And yeah, literally start with a longing for more. And sooner or later, you see this is something which I was taught by my mentor. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I love that. Yeah, so to your viewers and listeners, literally start asking yourself the question, in all honesty, is this is or is there more life and then the longing will automatically kick in.


Elisa Tuijnder: Yeah. That’s a nice little philosophical ending. And yes, it does all start with. That question does, do we need change? Do we want change? And sometimes, yeah. People don’t always [00:29:00] realize that’s something they have to ask themselves and that there is other things out there as well and that there is possibility of change and so it’s nice to have our listeners reflect on that for a second and,

Markus Neukom: Go deeply.

It’s very much worth it. Yeah. Very often people don’t dare to ask themselves the question. What could be different? Because they know exactly, because they know it could be very consequential when I start asking myself. And confrontational to leave in corporate yeah,

Elisa Tuijnder: absolutely. Yeah. And confrontational.

It’s not always, you have to be in the right space as well to shake things

Markus Neukom: up. Yeah. But have a chat with friends and family. That’s always helpful in the beginning. Exactly.

Elisa Tuijnder: Exactly. Hey, Markus, if people want to get in contact with you now where would that be? Where would they be able to find you?

Somewhere on the internet or LinkedIn, et cetera.

Markus Neukom: Thanks for asking. The easiest way to find me is through LinkedIn. And my [00:30:00] LinkedIn handle is my first name, which is M A R K U S N E U K O M, Markus Neukom. And I’m the only one with that handle. Okay. So they’ll find me immediately. And there you see as well, what I stand for in terms of my posts.

And there I have as well the link for my website. And if someone wants to have an inspirational call with me and it’s 20 minutes offer, I make basically just to kick this process off by chatting with someone who isn’t too close to them. Yeah. So this is my offer, which I’d like to extend, but LinkedIn definitely the easiest way to get in touch with me.

Elisa Tuijnder: Great. And we’ll ensure we add that to the show notes as well, those people who want to get in contact are able to do so as easy as possible. Yeah, I’d love too. Yep. Hey Markus, thank you so much for having this conversation with me. It’s yeah I like the personal touch, seeing where you’re coming, seeing how you’re helping people and [00:31:00] yeah.

Hopefully gets, do that even more in the future. Continues to help you. Yes, cuz it’s a beautiful path that you are on.

Markus Neukom: Thank you so much, Elisa, for having me been a real pleasure. Thank you.

Elisa Tuijnder: You’ve been listening to The Happiness At Work podcast by Management 3.0 where we are getting serious about happiness. Be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and if you enjoy our shows, don’t be shy. Write us a review. Share the happiness with your colleagues, family or friends. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn under Management 3.0.[00:32:00]

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