Hints & Tips Blog

Are you suffering from ‘potential problem paralysis’?

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of senior people in SME’s asking for mentoring support to help them overcome what could be described as ‘scenario overload’ or ‘potential problem paralysis’. Given the journey we’ve all been on, it’s perhaps not surprising that resilience has been gradually but relentlessly eroded as the months have passed. But what’s interesting is that as we move beyond the pandemic, as restrictions have gradually lifted and many economic indicators are now looking buoyant, our ability to fully embrace this new phase, move forward decisively and make future plans is not always keeping pace.

In the first months of the pandemic, we were forced to react at speed, make decisions quickly, think the unthinkable and embrace new approaches wholesale. Now, as we are able to take back more control, be more proactive than reactive, and able to plan with perhaps a little more (and yes, I still hesitate to say a lot more!) certainty, it has brought for some a new challenge.

The fact we have been through the most seismic event in modern times has planted more firmly in our collective consciousness the realisation of just how many things are outside of our control. And it’s difficult to ignore.

As new challenges, problems or even opportunities arise, even if they are in reality far easier to deal with than many of the hurdles we’ve overcome during the pandemic, some are finding it difficult to find clarity on the right path to take. Our newly minted ‘hyper-awareness’ of just how seriously wrong things can go, can act as a blocker to definitive decisions and action. Instead driving a tendency to relentlessly work through every conceivable scenario, overthinking every possible angle and ultimately causing a paralysis of progress.

While scenario planning and risk mitigation are prudent business approaches, taken to the extreme they can be more damaging than productive. So, here’s 4 steps to take to reboot;

Focus on the actual problem
Rewind from your myriad of ‘possible outcomes’ to refocus on the root cause, trigger or initial problem you needed to fix. Break it down into its component parts and create a sense of perspective and scale. How much impact is this problem likely to have in the business overall, even if you don’t get the solution 100% right – compared to say dealing with coronavirus, which you handled given you’re still here right? Through this lens, things will feel more manageable and enable you to assess challenges with more objectivity.

Assess the true danger
With your perspective now realigned, look at the most likely problems the situation will create and how serious they will be? Identifying the real dangers, not looking at every possible downside however unlikely, will allow you to focus more effectively on a solution that will work, rather than chasing the elusive ‘perfect’ solution.

Identify solutions
Identify how you can take back control, what can you do, what practical steps can you take now and in the medium term that will solve or mitigate the most likely problems or outcomes? If you are struggling to identify a solution, then identify who might be able to help you create one. List the key challenges you need to address to then share with the person you can use as a sounding board.

Take a break
If the solution just isn’t coming change your position, physically. If you’re mentally ‘stuck’ changing your location or physical state can help to unblock your thoughts. Taking a walk, doing exercise, reading a book, focusing on an entirely different task can all help us reset and allow us to revisit the problem with a different perspective and energy.


Our team at BHP Consulting have all successfully run businesses, and we understand that every business and every business owner or Director is unique. If you are interested in hearing about how we work with other business leaders to provide mentoring support please click here to arrange a call or an exploratory face-to-face meeting,