The Engineering Leadership Podcast · Episode 33

Build Your Personal Board of Directors

with Harpaul Sambhi Founder & CEO @ Magical

Mar 23, 2021
Harpaul Sambhi, Founder & CEO @ Magical reveals the tools he uses to accelerate his personal and professional growth. You’ll learn how to engineer successful outcomes with your goals through accountability mechanisms, how to build a personal board of directors or leverage friendly competitions like the “master of the universe award” to learn, pivot, & grow faster.
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Harpaul Sambhi - Founder & CEO @ Magical

Harpaul Sambhi is a serial entrepreneur and life optimizer. His current company Magical is reinventing copy and paste, automating mundane, soul-crushing tasks. He previously sold his company, Careerify, to LinkedIn in 2015 and joined the product management team.

"When we do our goal setting, especially if you're trying to compete with someone... do the personal side just as much as the professional side. And you get that layer of intimacy that is often not necessarily shown in these types of meetings. And as a result, they become an exceptionally vital part of your life.”

- Harpaul Sambhi

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Show Notes

  • The origin story of Harpaul’s hunger for personal growth (2:47)
  • Introducing the “Personal Board of Directors” as a tool to accelerate your personal & professional growth (4:25)
  • Accountability as a mechanism to achieve your goals (7:38)
  • How a personal board of directors works and impacts your thought process (10:07)
  • How to identify your gaps and leverage your personal board of directors (14:31)
  • Increase the richness of your discussion and reduce “off the cuff thinking” with “prep notes (20:47)
  • How to curate and build your personal board of directors (25:33)
  • Where to start building your personal board of directors (33:32)
  • How to use “friendly competitions” like the “Master of the Universe Award” to accelerate your growth (37:14)
  • Focus on your goal’s inputs vs. outputs (43:22)
  • How the “Master of the Universe Award” impacts your relationships (45:34
  • Takeaways (48:50)


The origin story of Harpaul's hunger for personal growth

Patrick Gallagher: One of the things in preparing for our conversation that has really stood out to me, is that you are somebody who is absolutely hungry for performance and personal growth.

Where does that hunger come from? What's the origin story there?

Harpaul Sambhi: I remember when I was four years old or five, I can't remember specifically the actual age. But my dad and I were walking in downtown and I saw a statue. And naturally, when you're a kid, you look up and you're inquisitive and you ask yourself, " what is this?"

Right? And it's my first time actually seeing a statue. And my dad was like, didn't know who that person was, but he said, if you do something really important in life and you serve a community. They sometimes memorialize you in a way where they build a statue.

And that got me thinking at a very young age, like for us to say, "well, how does one get a statue?"

Now, think if you were to ask today, me, "do I want a statue?" The answer's no. But I think the overall drive which got instilled to me when I was younger was essentially... in order to do great things and to really serve people and serve a lot of people. You need to be hungry.

Patrick Gallagher: It's an incredible story to think about that that happened at four years old, that you had the awareness to notice that. And then for that to really be a defining moment for just how you operate as an individual.

Harpaul Sambhi: Well, I think the caveat there is that the individual was also on a really awesome horse. And it was one of those war time statues. So you're like, wow! Like, the general with the horse and, you know, you're like, "I really want that horse." Right.

So as a, as a four or five-year-old, you're really thinking about the horse itself and the artistic side, but I think that's how it it all was a stuck to me.

Patrick Gallagher: It's all just a quest to find that moment where you are on the horse.

Introducing the “Personal Board of Directors” as a tool to accelerate your personal & professional growth

I love it. So... the purpose of why we're here is we want to talk about better faster practices for personal goal setting and how to change your thought process.

And so I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about some of the different structures that you've used in your life to help accelerate how you think differently or how you change your, your practices.

What have been some of the most effective tools for you?

Harpaul Sambhi: I think it stemmed from a quote that I think a lot of people hear which is "be your own CEO", right. It gets bandied about and tossed around a lot of times, but I think we take it figuratively and we GET it, what if we actually applied its concept.

So as a CEO, you know, you're here to maximize value for your shareholders. To your customers and to your employees as well. And if we take that in a literal sense, you and your body have in theory departments, right? So think about it in three different ways. You have the mind department, you have the body department, and then you have your soul department.

The mind department is really focused on mental growth in learning. Body is about physical wellbeing, consumption, like what you eat. And then finally you have your soul, which is kind of like the vision and mission of your company, so to speak, which is you! Right?

And, you know, naturally you're going to have stakeholders and employees too. And how they manifest themselves in life could be family, friends, colleagues, external environments, where you live, where you work, what type of car you drive, stock markets, COVID et cetera. So you have all these things to take into consideration that affect your company, which in this case is YOU. Yourself.

So if you kind of apply it that way, You start to say, "okay, I need to maximize myself. I only have a finite amount of time on this earth. How do I structure myself or with this company, if you will... in a way where we start to increase efficiency and increase throughput as much as possible."

Because I think at the end of the day, everyone wants to be happy. They want to be in specific areas. And that's how I think about it when you have these departments, mind, body, and soul having to work together with each other. The influence and power they go back and forth at any given time. But that being said, it's your job to maximize each function, so to speak.

Jerry Li: How did you get to that perspective and a new way of looking at yourself

Harpaul Sambhi: yeah, I think it's always been an introspective feeling I often like to do a lot of postmortems, even if there's success. And it's more of challenging the inputs that we think about in order to get the output. Right.

We often take a lot of inputs from our first manager. And we just assume those are factual. When in fact we should start to question those things. So I think it's just trying to be inquisitive as much as possible. And that leads to then the question of, "okay, if, this is. Not right. Or this could be tweaked... What happens to the output overall?"

And that's why, as an example, one of the things that I built kind of going back into the manifest of like "you being a CEO of your body, and if you treat your body as a company and you're there to maximize it, why not ultimately get a external board of advisors or board of directors. Where people can actually push you mind, body, and soul in different directions, the way that you will choose to be.

so I, I think it's really manifested in the curiosity of things, but also just really challenging the assumptions of what is good and what can become better.

Accountability as a mechanism to achieve your goals

Patrick Gallagher: Tell us more about the board of directors or board of advisors, because I think finding that type of support, like you said, can be a HUGE way to expand your capacity and the different "departments of your life" tell us a little bit more about, that.

Harpaul Sambhi: You know, when we all do goal setting. And I think just generally we yearn for accountability. Right? And accountability can manifest in like small to large drivers when you think about it...

As an example, you have a journal and you write your goals down. You know it's the YOU of yesterday's keeping accountability for the YOU of today. Right.

But when you think about some of the larger drivers it's PEOPLE! Right? Like if we have a fitness goal, we want to achieve a certain way or maybe certain strength. If we were to tell two or three people about that specific goal, that's very near and dear to our heart, we are a lot more likely to succeed in that respective goal, then not telling anyone at all.

So if you have a goal in mind, know, you need to try to create accountability. And I felt when I was younger, it really came down to the point of, "yes, I write this goal down or maybe think about it, but then how do I actually enforce it... where either it's something, whether it's a program, reminder, a calendar invite, a journal entry."

Or conversely, the other end of the spectrum, PEOPLE coming around and saying, "HEY like you told us about this... What gives? Like, where are you at?"

You know, for me, I personally am not a big fan of like asynchronous learning environments. So like video chat, reading, for myself at least I really love the active dialogues where people can teach me things.

And it's the subtleties that I really care about. Right. It's not necessarily how they do about it. It's more about the inquisitive mind of HOW they're thinking about it. So when I tap into an entrepreneur to help me with my businesses, for example. I might have a certain area that I'm really interested in. I'm not really looking at like how they did it. Like what was the SEO genius behind it? It's really about the thought process and rationale that I'm really yearning for.

So I think generally speaking, accountability comes two ways where they're keeping you honest, whether it's again, a journal or person. And if you do have the ability to connect with people, it then allows you to create accountability the other way, where they're helping you learn and helping you get that thought process that really can help you get to the another one or two levels.

Patrick Gallagher: I have a ton of followup questions related to everything that you just shared...

I think, especially the line that you shared about "people yearn for accountability" is such a powerful notion...

How a personal board of directors works and impacts your thought process

I think to illustrate the impact that you were talking about... was there a particular decision or a particular moment where somebody that you brought in as an advisor or a personal board of director member that really made a difference in the outcome for you?

Like is there a moment where the way that they thought about it changed your opinion on something that made a big impact?

Harpaul Sambhi: Yeah, I think it was just when I first sat down with my first mentor, one of the CEOs of a PR firm. And he gave me a quote that kind of stuck with me, which was " you want to be unconventional in the way that you think."

He framed it in for PR perspective. Right? If you'd look at media today, If you do something that's in that band of spectrum, that's "normal..." you don't get highlighted. You kind of have to go to both ends of the spectrum and whether it's good or bad, doesn't matter where media takes notice.

And I kind of look at that and I said, okay, well for myself, you know, if I should start to apply that where I can become a lot more effective and, be explicit, whether it's like to call someone out on say, "Hey, can you be my personal board of director?" It starts to shape people in different ways.

My current company Magical when we did our last funding raise, I deliberately didn't go after like the big name players, so to speak. We had, you know, a four X incoming investment and we decided to just take what we really needed. And as a result we ended up doing is we transformed our cap table in a way where it really effected the business and hyper optimized it to various departments that we wanted to look at.

So as a result, we were able to get, as an example, a few engineers that really helped catapult us like 10 X and sped up our development. Uh, we got go to market people that really helped Think about our frame of mind. So that's helped on that side.

And then the personal side, you know, I've had so many different ways where people have told me something, or gave me a different way. And it's like always a hyper optimizing and improving more and more. Right. So I think I seen it across my entire life, and for me, at least it's been a fortune where. You know, I think things have stood out to a point where they've all added like a significant amount of impact here and there.

Jerry Li: So having a board of directors, how do you approach that? How many like for example... how many people do you have? And how often do you meet with them and how long does it last?

So assuming people get the idea and I want to try... what's should they do?

Harpaul Sambhi: I think it's a great question. And the way that I structure it is it's usually anywhere between like five to eight people 2019 is when I kind of like first start to carve it out. I like to structure everything into one to two year increments. And I asked myself, what are the goals that I ultimately want to hit? Whether it's like, again, mind, body, soul, right? Uh, that I'm missing out that I just really want to yearn to go after.

Then from there, I kind of had my goals in place and I'm looking for someone that's not going to like help with all 10 of those goals. If I have 10 goals. It's really about like getting someone that is. precise in this area that I just know has done this.

When I meet my knowing that have done this, it's either, physically in your network or conversely, you've Googled something and you're like, "Oh, that person has apparently done this. And let me go out and reach with them."

The next step after kind of calibrating, that is to create a list. I then survey my network to you know, help create that list to figure out, who could help me in my professional goals. Which most of the time my network can kind of yield either by first degree or secondary connection... the power of LinkedIn.

Secondly, then, it's really about if I don't have those people... Now, it's like, okay, If my network can't find it, then let's pay for it. You know? So as an example, a physical strengths coach. Don't really have many people... I mean, there's a lot of people that are, you know, I guess, fitness, fanatics, so to speak? But they may have not necessarily had the time in the first, in my first degree.

So that was resolves like, okay, well, who is your coach? And then, you know, you procure that coach. Or if it's like a natural path because you want specific objectives.

So I think the game is really about accountability, right? And, sometimes accountability is created because people care for you and that could be collected through your first degree and secondary networks.

And other times, you know, a form of compensation that you're paying for them can ultimately create that accountability, but that's okay. Right. So I think that is how I structure it, which is one to two year increments, thoughtfully think of who you really want to surround yourself because it is time investment, right? Like I sometimes spend in terms of frequency, some of them are our weekly calls and some of them are once every quarter just to do check-ins after you get to steady state. It really depends on how you want to structure that, but that's how I kind of go about it.

How to identify your gaps and leverage your personal board of directors

Patrick Gallagher: Do you have questions that you ask yourself to identify some of the gaps in where you need help? Like, what does that process look like to identify where support from a board of director or an advisor would be most effective?

Harpaul Sambhi: Yeah, I think you have to have that introspective to kind of say, what is missing? So as an example, my current company magical. It's a pro-sumer company. And my last startup was in the enterprise space, HR tech. One was like, top-down selling this one is prosumer. We're going to users that are just like downloading our app for free. And then eventually over time we'll have like this paid product that people might convert to. And that's not really a notion for me to grapple. Like there's a very distinct differences in terms of how you build a company, because one is product led. And the other one is kind of focused around maybe customer and sales led.

So for me, I looked at that as like, there is potentially a void there. And maybe that, chasm that I have to jump is too steep or that learning curve is just way too steep for me to kind of actually attain in the desired amount of time that I need to get up there.

For me, as an example, being a CEO of a prosumer company, I really needed to get my shit. it has to get together really quickly, right. you know, I have all these different stakeholders that I just need to get after. So for me then it became really important to align myself immediately with people. And I then proactively sourced through my networks. Like some of the top CEOs up there to say, "Hey, you're a prosumer company. Do you want to advise? Do you want to invest? Do you want to like either personally, professionally, whatever it is... and let's go, let's go at it!

So I think it really depends on the agency itself, but if you don't have time, go at it. If the learning curve is way too steep or you think you can't get it during that timeframe, then you need to add additional support around it.

Patrick Gallagher: To learn faster, ask for help. I think it's been really helpful to, to see the urgency in your life and how that's, how that's manifested. That's just something I really appreciate. Cause I am totally resistant to asking for help to paying for help. But I think identifying that those are huge ways to accelerate and solve those problems that can be really painful and to help bridge those gaps in a way that's really fast is really cool.

Jerry Li: I want to bring the approach to a team setting, because a lot of listeners are engineering leaders, they are leading a team. Have you seen people taking similar approach in team setting or how do you envision that could happen?

Harpaul Sambhi: Yeah, it's a great question. And that's something that we bake in at Magical with all of our employees. So when they join for the first time, we ask them, "Hey, Do you want a personal board of directors?" And they are often like, "What? What is this? What is Harpaul talking about?"

And that is where we start to ask them.

And we say to them explicitly, "Look, we're a small company. We're not a size of a Google. And as a result our resources are limited... While you're going to learn a lot internally, we want to also augment that externally as well. So what are the areas, whether it's personally, professionally, that you want us to be aware of, that you want development in?"

And it's really cool! You start to get this other side of a human really quickly, where they start to open up. They say, "you know, I just really want to like talk to other people that have done unconventional things because my parents were from a similar background, and they didn't want me to do startup and now I'm doing startup. But I want to talk to more and more people because I want to do more and more things."

Right? And you know, there's been other kinds of requests where there, all of a sudden allows you to then say, great, Now let's duplicate the effort that I did and allow people to connect with one another.

I'm a firm believer. If you're in a team setting, if you're helping your direct reports or helping your indirect colleagues, or skip-level... You help humans, they will help you back down the line if you need it. So for me, it's all about that Karma effect. And if they, you don't need it, or if they don't help, cool, it's all good, you know?

But the end there is... You're strengthening your network. And if you strengthen your network overall when two people get value. they're forever thankful for that. And that's a great place to be in to be that connector.

Jerry Li: So for, new hires, you ask that question if you're very interested and then you help them to leverage your network to identify people that potentially can fill in some of the, the seats of their board of directors. I think that can be applied more generally

You were running a team, you hired someone. So that manifests, not only do you care about their work, but also you care about them as a person. And also that's a very good way to get to know who they are as a person as well. So that instantly build trust.

What you were talking about earlier is for their, team members? What about for themselves?

Because you apply that approach tour life. But I think that can be applied to a leader as well, even though they are not a CEO. They're not having their real board of directors, maybe I can have another person from a different department or even different companies, serving a function that can become, you know, a person that I can talk to.

Do you have any, any insights on that?

Harpaul Sambhi: When I was at LinkedIn and Microsoft two very large companies. so I sold my company, Careerify to LinkedIn. LinkedIn got bought by Microsoft. And as a result, it was part of my kind of mission is to A, get to know people, but B... there were a lot of unknowns, right?

Like I, I often find that when you start to see decisions that are not made in, in your, the thought process is the way it should go. You now need to have curiosity to kind of understand WHY and you start to kind of get a lot more data around it and you start to build a relationships around it. And from there it's like, okay, like "if I have a professional objective of doing X, whether it's launching a new product or scaling something, how could these people be helpful for me and provide accountability because they may have seen something different? That I can now learn from, and they also know all the red tape, right. Or the, the bureaucratic tape that ends up happening in a company naturally.

super helpful, but I also would encourage people to do it externally, just as much as internally. Because again, it's, it's not all about the tried and tested knowledge. it's about challenging the inputs and the assumptions that we make. And even if people... and this is a great thing about board of directors... is not all of them a hundred percent know what's going on in the company at all times.

So they're taking their external view. Which is like a five minute snippet of like what I gave them. as in a preread. And very quickly they come back and they were like, "well, this is what I've seen..." and all of a sudden, you're now having a very interesting dialogue. And filling in the gaps a little bit, so they can start to kind of narrow in, but you're starting to learn and how they're kind of thinking about that thought process. So I think it's definitely important for anyone to continue to build out that network both internally and externally.

Increase the richness of your discussion & reduce "off the cuff" thinking with "prep notes"

Jerry Li: I'm curious about the pre note uh example you mentioned, how does it work?

Harpaul Sambhi: With regards to prep notes, it's really about, saving people time, saving your time and getting people up to speed as much as possible. Right? So you see... some companies as an example, like Amazon, they set time the first 10 minutes in a meeting where they just read and they kind of understand, and they come prepared.

Sometimes it's really difficult to get people up to speed. So what I like to do is just basically set a summary of information to kind of get them abreast of where we're at at any given time. And this allows them to get directly into the problem versus learning and then getting into the problem itself.

And very frankly, like see a material difference when I, send prep notes to someone. To other people that I don't. And then you can kind of see, off the cuff thinking through it a little bit.

And, you know, as humans, we might be really good at off the cuff and sometimes people need to reflect and analyze. So if both of them get that kind of level of data prior to a call, it allows people to jump right straight through and then have a much more informed, rich discussion.

How to curate and build your personal board of directors

Patrick Gallagher: Harpaul,I was wondering if we could talk about your process to build and curate your board of directors. For somebody listening in this may be a concept that they've never considered before. And so they're really going from zero to one to be more thoughtful and methodical with how they build in that type of support.

How do you reach out to these folks? Is there any particular language that you use or ways that you present this concept or idea so that it's, an easy thing to say yes to

Harpaul Sambhi: Yeah, think it's, definitely not the first date or the first outreach that you'd want to say this because I think they might look at you and say, "what are you talking about?"

Patrick Gallagher: The equivalent of, "Do you want to come and meet my parents?" after the first time you meet someone?

Harpaul Sambhi: Exactly. And it's usually like 15 minutes within that coffee, right. or where you're saying that...

But think it's really about first, when you're seeing a prospect that could really help you, is really sussing them out. Everyone jives with people in different ways. Some people love indirect people. Some people love direct feedback. Some people like the comedic sense. So people just like, no holds bar, just shoot 'em straight.

So I really think it's really, depending on the type of personas that you really like, that you feel can help augment you, in the future. Or the future you,

So I think first and foremost, when I'm speaking with people, I try to assess personality. Because again, you just want to surround with people that you like to meet with, on a continuous basis.

But at the same time, if you liked them, there's a high likelihood that they like you. Right. And that first meeting is really about creating that, that spark in a first date environment almost right? Where it's like. "Okay. I could see you... like, are you going to return my call? Yes. Are you going to return my email? Maybe..." and if those are our yeses, then you kind of now go into an explicit ask.

And again, like I often have my explicit asks written down prior to my meeting and depending on how conversations go, I might have two or three asks and I might narrow down to one that I feel like this person can really help in. Because again, if you're using LinkedIn where they say they're a "Head of Whatever" and they end up not being the head of whatever... then you're just like, okay, like, "do I really want to spend and invest my time and energy there?"

Assuming, all things kind of, line up, so to speak, the Tinder profile looks good. You check it out. You have your first date, it looks good. Now, we're kind of going at that one objective, which is. "Will you meet me the next time?"

And that's really what I'm looking to go towards. And I don't necessarily leave it as like, "Do you want to see me the next time? You know, here's my number..." It's more of, "I have an explicit ask. Do you think this warrants, a meeting that where we can just chat for another 30 minutes or an hour? And we can go in depth in it?

And now you could get a good assessment of whether or not they are A. open to having another chat with you. So it's like, do they like me... 2. They immediately will say yes or no. again, I think busy people just don't have enough time in their hands. And if they're saying yes, then again, that's a positive sign. And then finally it's really about, on that second meeting then having, you know, once your objectives are starting to clear to say, "okay, like, Hey I have, or my company has you know, board of advisors or I personally have a board of advisors that I often meet with once every three months or four months..."

...just you set your intervals. It's probably better to kind of go, you know, six months or three months. So meet them two to four times a year. And then start to gradually get down to like monthly's and then biweeklies, if you could it, and you get into that rhythm...

"And these are my objectives. Do you want to help me?"

And the big thing there, because that might be a tall ask for people, is to see how you could proactively add value with them. Because again, its all about two-way streets. So, consciously I'm thinking about, you know, when I meet them for the first time I'm thinking about, "Hey, do I have a potential customer, or a hire right, or a candidate that I can share with them. Then I start to get to know them a little bit more, then I'm like, "okay, this is exactly what they're going after personally or professionally." And again, it's a really important to kind of look at both sides of the sphere because you might talk to someone professionally...

And I had this once. Which was, the person that was talking to was really well established. Like I had no reason to meet with this person based on credentials, at least. They took it up. And I could not probably help this person at all.

But we started talking and off the cuff, he was saying, " My mother has cancer" and you know, I was like you know, I apologize and everything, but then. like I've had family members that went through cancer... and immediately afterwards I sent him this long list of things. This is relatively new, it was raw. Like she just got diagnosed. And I then sent an email to be like, here's all the material that I know.

wouldn't, you know, like this person that, you know, took about two weeks to respond to my first email, it took about two months to kind of schedule the first meeting. Within like three minutes. He responded. "Oh my gosh. Thank you so much. This is great."

And instantly he brought his barriers down and now I became in his good books. His admin remembered my name, all that stuff happened. And now all of a sudden. I was able to help him, you know, something that was really small in my opinion. But the fact that maybe not many people have acted on it, or maybe he didn't do the research... he just felt that, "Hey, I should invest a lot more time with Harpaul."

So I think it's really important to kind of not necessarily think about just the professional.. "Yeah. This person could be my skip level or this person's running a division or running the company... How could I help him or her in this goal?" think about it personally as well, because we're all humans. We all eat the same thing. We all do the same thing and we're here to survive and to live and to have fun.

So I think that's really important where a lot of people typically miss. When I kind of pull out of my bag, what Harpaul can do... quite often, it's the personal side of things that actually people resonate a lot more and they're like, "wow, that's, that's really kind of you."

Patrick Gallagher: That is an extraordinary story... There's a quote that I really love when it comes to relationships like that. And it's from Keith Ferazzi who wrote this book, Never Eat Alone...

I God that is like my roadmap to relationships is Keith Ferrazzi. But the quote from his that you might remember is, "When you approach your relationships with generosity, then the rewards follow suit."

And so I think about. You know, when you approach the situations with just a fierce commitment to figure out "what is the way that I can impact and support this person?" Personally, or professionally or whatever. It's not just about the business transaction. I think that's, that's an absolutely beautiful story, Harpaul... Wow!

Harpaul Sambhi: Thank you.

Patrick Gallagher: So my follow up question to that was going to be "well, how do you ensure that these relationships are mutually beneficial?" I think we got a really good understanding of that.

So now my question goes to past meeting two... How do you approach structuring that conversation or that meeting? Like, do you have an agenda or a typical structure that you follow? Or how do you think through having clear objectives and purposeful conversation in those meetings?

Harpaul Sambhi: Yeah. I mean, I think it's really about. Setting clearly the objectives in meeting two and three to say, "this is how you can help me and how I can help you." Right.

And once those clear guidelines are there and set, I think it becomes very natural for someone ultimately to progress those respective meetings month over month or once every quarter and whatnot.

I've seen at least that no one person that has accepted these things before for me... they haven't really followed a script. They just come through natural evolution. So it's, it's not something where you can kind of template these things, so to speak? And say, okay, like, you know, "meeting two, we're going to do this and meeting three, we're going to do this..."

It's all about ebbs and flows. Right. And I think it's really about the right timing to first ask, do the request. And then once you do the request to say, "okay, now let's dig in and, provide you updates, which I, I try to do every month irrespective if I'm meeting them or not.

So at least then they see that I'm creating accountability by kind of moving forward.

And as a result, the next time I give them a call or I meet with them. Ugh... I haven't met with anyone in a while.

Patrick Gallagher: This is a good moment of public accountability.

Harpaul Sambhi: Exactly!

Um, but, uh, but that being said, it's, it's really kind of focused on. Really driving the accountability on their side, that they'd been reading these things and they're able to now just dig in and just like help with that respective kind of mind, body, soul that we were referring to at the top.

Where to start building your personal board of directors

Patrick Gallagher: Where should someone start? So the problem that I often have is... to enter into a relationship like a, like a personal advisor or a personal board of directors. To me, I perceive that as a really big ask and I'm really nervous to ask that.

And so I'm trying to figure out how do I lower that barrier or reduce that friction?

So I was wondering Harpaul, if you had, you know, a first action that is low barrier, that would help somebody begin to build momentum reach out to the network and start to build out this support structure?

Harpaul Sambhi: First things first, if the answer is no, then at least it's an answer. Right? So getting a rejection is great. Uh, I think it's often when you get in-between the rejection of yes or no, where things become a lot more mirk... And you expend a lot more energy on it.

So I think let's just remove that side. Once you get the no... it is what it is. And you're like, "okay, cool. Like that was not the right type of persona type." Maybe, you know, we might need to shoot a little bit lower because I'm getting no's across all the CEO's. So maybe I go to the SVPs, right. As an example. Right. And we have to work ourselves up or maybe my hook has to change a little bit. So I think you're constantly like AB testing a little bit there,

But I think it kind of comes down to like, What value you can provide, what value they could provide. And just really thinking about the fundamentals of giving. And if you give continuously, then people will... Karma will kind of come back and you'll get it one way or another, whether it's directly from that person or indirectly from another person that just wants to help. Right. It's I, I don't really think there's any science around it. I think it's just going out there on a limb and being vulnerable. Which is completely fine. You're asking for help.

But how many human's ask for help? When you think about it? And when you ask for help, people are now all of a sudden like, "Well, hold on, Patrick is not a sales person here... he's not looking to, you know, get hired or to sell me something. He's asking for genuine going to help... and I might have the expertise to help him unlock this thing. Whether it's through a quick five minute email that I can just write, because I just don't have time for him. Or conversely, it just jump on a zoom meeting or, eventually over time building that relationship."

So I think it's really about being vulnerable and saying, "I need help. I think you might have the answer. And I would love to just jump on that." Whether it's a call, a meeting, et cetera.

and you'd be surprised people like those inbound requests and, will reply to those inbound requests with a lot more than can I look for a job, or I'm here to sell you something.

Patrick Gallagher: I think that is such strong and apt advice because... I'm going to, I'm going to pick on Jerry Little bit, but also highlights something that I think it's been really exciting to see him adopt. In our professional capacity for ELC, we we've been a very small grassroots, team, and we've done a lot of big projects with just a couple of us. So like we produced an in-person conference with, three to five people and it was a massive undertaking.

But one thing I really am impressed by with Jerry is he has this kind of his master sheet and has an ask for help column...

Jerry, I didn't, I wanted to pick on you a little bit. What do you think about asking for help?

Jerry Li: There are many times were, has conversations people, they love what we were, building. and typically at any conversation people, will ask how can I help? And I often feel bad that I don't have, a very clear ask

and then, I started to build out , a list of things where I need help so that when things came up, I can just, throw onto the list. next time when people ask me that question, I can find the most appropriate.

It creates awareness of what, are the things that you don't have to do

Having that list ready is immensely helpful for me

Patrick Gallagher: I think I've found the same thing where it just simply asking for help you'll be found more often than not with people willing to support you. and so I think that's simple yet profound advice

How to use “friendly competitions” like the “Master of the Universe Award” to accelerate your growth

Harpaul, we've talked about a couple specific ways to help people accelerate their growth personally and professionally. Asking for helping being the most recent one. talking about the concept of personal board of directors.

I know you have a few other practices that you apply and integrate in your life. And there was one in particular I was hoping we could get into, because I thought this is really, really powerful...

And so I know you've mentioned to Jerry and I, a couple of times about the concept of "The Master of the Universe Award" or some of the friendly competitions that you use.

So I was wondering if you could share with us, what is that and how has that impacted your growth?

Harpaul Sambhi: Well, first off the "Master of the Universe Award" is definitely a lofty name. And just off the record, I, yeah. I actually did win this five straight times. And I think Thanos, he has nothing on me clearly...

I want motivation and motivation happens through intrinsic and extrinsic means.

Right. Intrinsic emotion motivation is... "I myself really want to do something and achieve even a family, wants to drive and achieve. Maybe it's good for the outcome of society, whatever it is. And at the end of the day, you're there to kind of complete a goal and something is internally moving you. And extrinsic motivation could be like financial compensation. Maybe it's something, extrinsic that kind of happens to you as a result, you winning this right. Or, or achieving a goal.

So. For me. I really love it when there is both the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation behind a specific outcome, because then it's game on. You're all in, right? It's not like you're half-assing something, so to speak.

But the premise is very simple. Right? You select someone that you feel is ahead of you by a couple of years. So again, you're looking at the future. You and you're like "this person is maybe one to two years ahead of me in something that you want to excel at."

So it could be like, I am currently a startup CEO. I have a currently, an employee base of like 10 to 15, but, you know, eventually I want to get up to 50 in, by the next year. So let me go talk to a CEO that has 50 people and start to learn about those reps, even though I'm not in it right now.

So you're kind of looking at that to say, "okay, where are you today, personally, professionally. And where is that future you a year or two down the line and who is that person? And identify them. And now, what you want to do is get this person into a competition. A year long competition specifically.

And again, it becomes a little bit difficult on the massaging and messaging around this, but, ideally what the premise is around this. This is you, you list 10 personal professional goals. It's really important to kind of both. And then you break those professional goals that you want to achieve at the end of the year, weekly, such that you slowly chip away at these goals week by week.

And the whole goal is you want to complete as many of your weekly goals as possible to create accountability, you're going to jump on a call with this person for 10 minutes every Monday morning. Where five minutes, you've reviewed their goals and you basically ask them, "why did you hit this goal? What about this goal? Goal number C. Why didn't you do this?" and then you switched and then then they kind of pester you. uh, you know, for five minutes as well. You know, you tally you at the end of the week, what you did do, what you didn't do. And at the end of the year, whoever has the most completed goals... wins the master of the universe.

Now that's great intrinsic. And for extrinsic, what I did is I kind of said, "okay, the loser then has to buy the winner dinner anywhere that the winner wants." And initially, first year I was really poor. I had my first company didn't I didn't sell my business yet. The dinner was like local. So where are we in the city? And then, you know, year two, year, three, year, four, year five, et cetera... it became "anywhere in the world that you wanted to."

So, like, as an example, born and raised in Toronto, Canada. And, I really liked to restaurant. where you only allowed people and patrons to come in, if you had platinum tickets to either the Toronto Maple Leafs, an NHL club, or Toronto Raptors. So what the loser had to do is buy platinum seats, which are typically first rows... THEN wine, and dine me at this dinner.

So like, that's kind of how it went so to speak,

Patrick Gallagher: High stakes!

Harpaul Sambhi: The stakes were really high and you know, you go after the steaks literally and the sushi as well...

But that being said, like the gist of that is why I really loved it. Is not necessarily because I created accountability, which again is really important, and you really need that in goal setting and with your board or with like friendly competition. But this person is supposedly to be the future me in like one to two years. And now I'm getting a peer view of all his or her respective goals and their thought process behind it and how they're thinking about it. And over a year, which is a long enough time span, you get to see the switches, right? The small pivots or the big pivots in a business or a small pivots in their thinking.

And that to me is actually worth a lot more than like an MBA itself.

Patrick Gallagher: What was an example of one of those competitions that you won? What was the goal? What was the story around it? How did you earn one of those awards?

Harpaul Sambhi: Yeah! That specific one... the delta between us was like, two goals. I think, It was like a couple of hundred that I got and then two less than, you know, he had it as well. And we had to look at efficiency because I think we were just so competitive with one another where he was this, "well, you might've like know, inflated, it... let's look at efficiency in addition to just the number of outputs is overall..."

But he was a good sport because you know, when, when he was like, "I lost..." he ended up doing what he had to do...

The biggest impact you know, at that time, it was my first company and I got to see how a founder that ran a 250 person company run... in tech! And it just gave me some really clear insights. Like my first business was bootstrapped. And even though now my current company Magical is funded... I learned through him just through osmosis because you know, one of his goals was to raise a really large round and then he was looking to acquire a company and, it just gave me all these insights where I was a fly on a wall.

And while I wasn't in those meetings, I got the summaries, I got the inputs and outputs. And then I was able to cut up like, Make believe and create that vision of what that actual environment was and how those inputs translated to an output itself. And then I think that became really important for me in, in why I kind of continually drive myself to become, the better me of tomorrow, so to speak.

Goal inputs vs. outputs

Patrick Gallagher: So I just want to recap some of the, the components of that, because I think they're really powerful...

There were high stakes involved for both parties, that there was skin in the game it mattered.

The other was of course the peer accountability and the different ways that, that, came into play.

The other was that it was a meaningful goal to you. It wasn't just arbitrary, but it was something that was really valuable and was aligned with where you wanted to go and what you wanted to do.

And then the other was, you know, the large goal broken down into small goals specifically by having input that you can control that translates to the desired output...

That part to me seems to be where I oftentimes get tripped up is like, "I have this goal and this is the result that I want." But I have trouble breaking down the inputs.

Do you have any advice for somebody in thinking about inputs into your goals versus outputs?

Harpaul Sambhi: The reality is, is you can't control an output. especially if the output is driven by more than one party.

you know, it's one thing where it's like, okay, I have to lift weights. And it's only me that have to lift weights, it's you and the weights. But the moment that you want to get a promotion, you have your manager, your directs, your colleagues, your skips, all kind of factored in, and they could have one bad moment a time on that day when they're doing your evaluation and that causes your evaluation to go up in smoke

Conversely, the company does really poorly and you can't get promoted. Right? So as a result, I I've learned with this and I sometimes catch myself continually were, you know, either I create OKRs my company or a department or goals for myself where we're like, "we need to like hit these number of users. We need to get this much revenue..."

Reality is, is like, Something like COVID could happen. And all of a sudden you're dealt with something where you just cannot physically control.

So I think what's really important. in goal setting is to kind of look at yourself and say, "okay, what are the only things that I can control, input wise that will result into output...?"

Which is I could become a better me. I can learn more. you know, and therefore you're now taking courses, you're meeting with people that are helping you with learning more... that hopefully indirectly result into something like, you know, you're launching an ML practice of some sort. You're hiring a whole bunch of people to help the company grow, a specific manner.

So I think it's really important to your point. Patrick is really to kinda look at the, the input there.

How the “Master of the Universe Award” impacts your relationships

Patrick Gallagher: What was the reaction or the response from the person that you, you beat in the competition?

Harpaul Sambhi: Out of all the people that I've competed with, it's created a remarkable bond with them. Because you start to peel back the layers of an individual. And naturally when you talk to people at face value, whether you meet with them once a month, once every six months, once a year, or even once a day for that matter, you only see one side of them.

And I think it was really important, especially when, when we do our goal setting, especially if you're trying to compete with someone... is to do the personal side just as much as the professional side. And you get that layer of intimacy that is often not necessarily shown in these types of meetings.

And as a result, they become, an exceptionally vital part of your life. And, at least for myself, like I competed with people in 2013, 12, 2014, and so on. And all those people are, you know, the moment we chat... A. We reflect on those conversations and we have a good laugh.

But B. Given that they understand my thought process, even though that thought process was like five, six, 10 years ago... they still know me intimately. And they're able to kind of really help in that moment in time and go to levels that are a lot more deeper than sometimes the transactional conversations that we have day to day.

And as a result, I think it's less about, you know, the winning, losing of money, so to speak. It's more of the, " I was here to help someone progress on goals because I spent five minutes. Telling them, why didn't you do this? Or why not?"

Right. and conversely, the other way around. And the accountability created this relationship and level of intimacy that you sometimes yearn to get, from our day-to-day conversations.

So I think those all in all, everyone has been just phenomenal. I think it's less about the extrinsic reward, which is a good meal. It's more about the bond and comradery between, going through a year together. And seeing how we've grown, because you could see from Jan one to December 31st growth.

And I think that's what people actually see it. They're like, "Wow, I've grown with this person, which is really cool!"

Patrick Gallagher: I think that's so special. I mean, in the quest for personal growth, what becomes discovered is deeper, more meaningful relationships in that shared journey. And I know that I've personally found some of my strongest relationships to be people that have been so generous with their time and their knowledge and their insights and experience to help my own personal growth journey.

And I think, walking away from our conversation Harpaul, just tremendously admire your hunger and desire to grow, but also your spirit of generosity to want to share that with other people. Because I think that is something, our world needs more of is that sense of generosity and to, to build those types of relationships that are about investing in other people and their success. Because I do think that that is where, you know, that richness of life is found is in those moments of supporting people in helping them grow.

So I just wanted to say thank you so much for your time and your generosity with us and our community, Thank you.

Harpaul Sambhi:

Yeah, this has been a blast. And for everyone that's listening, feel free to message me and see how I can be helpful. I'm all ears.

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