Business leaders face peak ‘emotional overdraft’ this month

Resilience drops to its lowest level on ‘Red Friday’, says leadership coach and author Andy Brown.

Business owners and leaders face their toughest month in January with a maxed- out “emotional overdraft”. On top of the post-Christmas financial strain we all face, entrepreneurs are grappling with demanding clients in a hurry to catch up after the holiday, reduced capacity, peak staff resignations and cash flow challenges.

“January brings unique pressures for business owners” says Brown, whose book ‘The Emotional Overdraft’ articulates the often overlooked mental and physical costs of leadership.

“It’s the perfect storm, and when you overcome your business challenges at the expense of your own mental and physical health, you’re effectively subsidising it with an emotional overdraft. You’re dipping into your personal reserves to support the company, and if you do it for too long, you eventually run out of credit.”

He adds, “We’re all aware of Blue Monday, but my research shows the end of the second week– which I call ‘Red Friday’ – marks the evaporation of any New Year optimism for leaders.

“Clients return with heightened demands, and employees who plan to resign typically hand in their notices. Additionally, business leaders often face increased workloads due to staff illnesses, alongside the challenge of chasing payments held up over the holiday.

“All these factors, combined with the general gloominess of January, culminate in an arduous week for business leaders.”

So, how can business leaders better face these New Year challenges, and prepare themselves for a more resilient 2024? Brown, who has spent over two years speaking with hundreds of leaders and founders in preparation for his book, points to self-awareness and small behavioural changes as being the best starting point.

“None of us make the ideal choice every time; instead, we tend to fall back on our habits. Immediate relief can be found through small behavioural changes rather than the acquisition of new skills”, says Brown, “you don’t need to learn anything new to navigate the challenges January bring, rather focus on understanding and managing the emotional debt that accumulates under such pressures.

“In the research for my book, I identified 10 drivers of an emotional overdraft. These include behaviours such as lack of trust, a sense of duty, the “doer” mentality and cost concerns.

‘Anything that costs you your mental health is too expensive. And in January leaders need to be more aware than ever. Whenever you draw on your emotional overdraft to solve a problem, you’re subsidising your business at the cost of your own resilience. Someone, somewhere, always pays the price.”

Brown’s book identifies simple steps leaders and founders can take to reduce their emotional overdraft, enabling them to create a healthier relationship with their business, loved ones and themselves.

Take the free emotional overdraft self-assessment on

The Emotional Overdraft: 10 simple changes for balancing business success and wellbeing is released on Kindle in January 2024.

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