Donald — an ad hoc strategic thought partner

What is Donald?: Donald is a service I provide for founders and other leaders to help them avoid being blindsided as they develop and execute strategy. It’s a bit like having a personal, on-demand red team function. Donald may or may not be named for a senior world leader who refused to stress test their ideas.

   The problem Donald solves
   Why Donald works
   How Donald works

To be a successful leader, you must both have good ideas and make sure your stakeholders (employees, senior leadership, and board) support and take ownership of those ideas. As a leader, you want to introduce big new ideas that make your stakeholders say, What can we do to make it reality?”

To get there, I help you anticipate how your ideas will be perceived and attacked by others, then work with you to close off these attack paths. I aim to create a high-trust environment in which I can become your ally in strengthening your ideas. My goal is your success, and we achieve that together by

  1. Stress-testing your ideas to clarify them and strengthen them against attack,
  2. Stress-testing how your ideas are presented to make them more convincing, 
  3. Structuring your ideas to reduce their perceived threat within your organisation, and
  4. Using influence strategies to grow support for — and reduce opposition to — your ideas. 

The problem Donald solves: Donald originated in a series of conversations I had with leaders of both startups and established companies. Again and again, I found that they wanted to talk to me because I could offer something which they couldn’t get anywhere else: an outsider who could help them refine their strategy and make it more convincing to important audiences such as investors, executive boards, and senior management.

Leaders don’t just come up with ideas. They also need to persuade their boards, their leadership teams, and their employees to stand with them in executing these ideas. Unfortunately, big new ideas are the ones most likely to be resisted and attacked by internal and external stakeholders. Leaders can’t afford to be blindsided by attacks on their ideas that they don’t have strong answers to — especially if the attacks are foreseeable and easily defused in advance. 

Many leaders lack the key resource needed to avoid being blindsided in this way: A trusted person who

  1. Doesn’t have a vested interest in preserving the status quo.
  2. Isn’t part of the internal hierarchy.
  3. Doesn’t make the same assumptions that insiders take for granted.

Why Donald works: Donald is this key resource. I can be honest with you in ways that others can’t. You can make mistakes with me that would be impossible with those who report to you or those you report to. And I can help you figure out what assumptions you’re making and whether they make sense.

How Donald works: You schedule a time, we talk for an hour or two (usually on the phone or by videoconference). If you want to, you can send me material to read in advance. We workshop your ideas while we talk and we make them better together. Sometimes, where it seems helpful, I’ll send you a synthetic note after we talk. That’s it. Donald is 1:1 time, and it is not provided by teams of consultants with overproduced slide decks.

Donald sessions are always confidential, though you can involve other members of your organization in a Donald session.

Get in touch with me if you’d like to try a Donald session.