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Orginally Published on the Q4Intelligence Employer’s Blog 

Are You an Executive Suffering from Decision Paralysis?

As an advisor to executives, we are well aware that the CFOs and the executive teams we talk to and work with are all under immense financial pressure to regain or improve their prior levels of company profitability and/or make dramatic increases in their bottom line operational efficiencies.

And all too often, we see unworldly pressure on these leaders to the point that it’s amazing each updated financial statement doesn’t create a new  DSM-5 definition for Financial Oversight Traumatic Stress Disorders.

Decision paralysis may be your worst nightmare

My youngest daughter randomly asked if I’d ever experienced an episode of “sleep paralysis”.

I, of course, have had those freaky dreams where I can’t move, or I need to shout but have no voice. But my answer to her was no, I’ve been fortunate to never have experienced a true episode of sleep paralysis in which I was still slightly awake, but unable to move.  And as I looked up the more extensive details of sleep paralysis on Wikipedia, I count myself extremely fortunate to have never experienced any of the associated hallucinations or associated feelings of fear.

As I kept reading the Wikipedia page, I began to understand why sleep paralysis makes a great horror story theme (yes, the youngest is a horror-flick fan). And, I just couldn’t help but think how uncannily familiar all those symptoms are to the trends I see from CFOs and executive leaders involving business decisions.

Not that any of these leaders are asleep on the job—but that there seems to be something akin to the REM sleep cycle dysfunction in sleep paralysis with the asynchronous view of the strategic actions and risk patterns in making forward-moving business decisions.

What happens (and allow me a bit of poetic license as I illustrate my point) if you rewrite the Wikipedia highlights for CFO Decision Paralysis?

Decision Paralysis is when, during financial and operational review, your C-suite leadership is aware of a needed change, but unable to take action. During an episode, they may hear, feel, or see things that are not there.  It often results in fear.  Episodes generally last for 30 days, and while some occurrences are a single episode, others may be recurrent and result in long term inaction. {insert CFO horror story photo}

The condition may occur in those who are otherwise healthy and mentally fit. The condition can be triggered by economic deprivation, organizational stress, and an overly abnormal team acceptance of the status quo.

Treatment options for decision paralysis have been poorly studied. Executives should generally be reassured that their condition is common, but that inaction can be serious.

Poor advice and spreadsheets may be the cause

It’s no wonder executives fall into this CFO Decision Paralysis. Excel spreadsheets are usually the tools of choice by insurance brokers to help facilitate this critical decision-making process. However, for those looking to become the agent of change for their teams, Excel spreadsheets are highly ineffective tools for reasoning change and creating projections.

Trying to tell a story of hope via this daily tool of despair is insane.

Executives, you need and deserve to work with an advisor who approaches an action item of such importance as your benefits with the goal of “breaking the cycle” – the spreadsheet-as-decision-making-tool cycle.

Because seriously, playdough molds or crayons or yoga poses are literally more effective tools than an Excel spreadsheet for making decisions about an employee attraction and retention tool as significant and important as your benefits package.

How does your broker help you make this decision?

Does your insurance advisor care about Decision Paralysis? Are they even aware of it? How about the brokers you invite in to quote for an RFP or just the ones you talk to “to keep your broker honest?”

Regardless of who it is and why you’re talking with them, we think is their damn moral and ethical duty to say something if they see something. Anyone you allow to have a seat at your table (even if the seat is only for a 15-minute sales pitch) should provide value and should not be a part of the stimulus to Decision Paralysis.

Bret Brummitt

Bret Brummitt

Senior Consultant

About the author: An avid learner and resourceful leader with a passion for problem solving, Bret is a calming force in the chaos and fast paced evolution of health insurance, employee benefits, and the growing burden of regulatory compliance. He helps people develop the confidence to see beyond the problem at hand and start to re-imagine their goals. Whether he’s helping a client or a colleague, Bret believes a successful interaction is one that allows us all to dream a little bigger when we’re done.

About AG Insurance: AG Insurance ( helps employers and their employees with solutions focused on positive organizational impact and improved employee experiences.