Murray Simser

Episode Description

In these unusual times, having to work from home and talk through platforms such as Zoom, it’s completely natural to feel like we’re isolating ourselves.  And that’s when we stop feeling like we can actually connect with our team and the people around us. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Today we have a returning guest! The energetic and passionate Murray Simser (CEO and Founder of CITIZN, Democracy’s Social Network) comes back to The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast to talk about a new challenge!

Last time, Murray and I talked about the #1 coaching mistake that leaders made. This time, he reached out to me with the feeling that the pandemic has taken a toll on his relationship with his team. And I think we can all relate to his problem. So, we have a fantastic conversation about leveraging the situation and innovating the concept of online work relationships.

Tune in to find out how we turn the situation around!

Do you feel this disconnection with your team as well? Are you having trouble with the new online modality? Share your story! If there's a challenge you'd like to discuss here on the podcast or privately, please reach out to me at:

kim@frameofmindcoaching.com

Episode Transcript

Kim Ades: [00:00:05]
Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades and I'm the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching, where we welcome people from all over the world to come onto the podcast and get coached live and in person.

Today, we have a returning guest. His name is Murray Simser and he is the President and Founder of a company called CITIZN. Or if you want to look them up on the web it's citizen.world.

Murray, welcome!

Murray Simser: [00:00:32]
Thank you very much, Kim. I'm happy to be back.

Kim Ades: [00:00:35]
So I'm really excited to catch up with you before we kind of get into all of that. Remind everybody, what is CITIZN and where are you at this point in your launch and your introduction? How are things going? Fill us in. I know that you were super excited before, very passionate about your project. So where are you now?

Murray Simser: [00:00:55]
Well, I have terrific news on the progress front. We've done some incredible things since we saw you last time. Let me start with just a bit of a story about CITIZN.

CITIZN, in the simplest description, is democracy's social network. And when you think about it in those terms, I think it says a lot. Everybody can understand this concept. Today democracy's just not doing what it was supposed to be doing before. And we live, for instance, in a country, here in Canada, where, you know, different parties are arguing about COVID-19, for instance, and nobody's listening.

There is a study done by Stanford that sort of supports the reason we're doing this, and it's called America in One Room. And it just basically lays out that democracy is sliding towards non-democracy. And that is autocratic States to soliterian States. We aim to fix that.

So CITIZN's job... That's "CITIZN", with no E. CITIZN, citizn.world... Our job is to give power back to people, in every democratic society on Earth, using a very simple construction, a social network-style application that allows every person, regardless of their speciality, education, knowledge, to actively participate in the dialogue of their democracy.

So Canada will have its own CITIZN, the United States will have its own CITIZN. It's not me-- it's not my business to run other people's democracies. It is my business to build technologies to allow people to run their own democracies. So that's what we've done.

From a progress standpoint, as you know, we launched in 2019. We did the global launch in December of that year. And from that point until December of last year, we were working on the product and the concept and the structure of the corporation, all funded by the founders of the company. We took in a small angel investment from a very, significant wealthy person, here in Toronto, who backed us because they believed.

And that person peer like a ray. God bless him... He believed in our program and we built the MVP. And the MVP we launched on December of last year. MVP is a Minimum Viable Product. It's sort of a prototype that we show people, to give them a sense for how the thing's going to work and to get feedback from the users, to make sure that it's going to work for those individuals down the road.

And we did that a few times. We took three different versions of the prototype and brought that out to the public, had them play with it. The reception was quite significant. People are really excited about the concept that CITIZN represents.

And that concept is going to come to full fruition in June when we launch... June or July, we're actually hoping it will be Canada Day when we launch the Canadian CITIZN organization, but it may be plus or minus, so please give me a special dispensation if it's a bit later, a bit earlier.
But that's going to be the commercial launch. And between now and the end of this year, we're going to aim to get a couple million Canadians on the platform so that we can commercially prove this out.

Now to do that, lastly, we need to raise capital. And so, as you may or may not know, just based on my LinkedIn posts, we actually are in the process of raising a $5 million round of capital for the corporation to fund the launch activities in Canada, the United States and India. And that closes May 26th.

So right now, my focus is exclusively on bringing to the table, the capital that's required to fund all of the activities, and make sure that the team has all the resources they need to take this public.

Kim Ades: [00:04:51]
So, are you looking for one primary investor or are you looking for multiple investors?

Murray Simser: [00:04:57]
Well, that depends. It's key, right? We have lots of people who have expressed their interest in this. We would like to see a proper lead investor on this. And so at the end of the day, when you have a proper lead investor... That's really the goal right now.

We've got lots of people that'll write checks. We've got lots of people that are interested. This is an accredited round. So this is not a solicitation for people to sort of fund it. It's not crowdfunding. But what we need is an institutional investor or a lead investor that'll be in there.

And that's the work that we undertake as an executive team, to make sure that we get the right investor and the right capital into this organization. We have to make sure that whatever capital comes into this company is not seen as polluting the vision. Okay?

Kim Ades: [00:05:39]
Got it.

Murray Simser: [00:05:40]
The vision is by, for and of the people. So you can't have sort of money coming in from a certain area or a certain group that would sort of materially...

Kim Ades: [00:05:50]
Is it possible actually to have a neutral investor? An unbiased investor? Non-partisan?

Murray Simser: [00:05:59]
Oh no, definitely not. Definitely not. All investors have one goal, and that is a return on capital. What you need to do though, and the way we've structured this company is those investors, if they do come in, have to join the company with the full knowledge that this company is going to be controlled by a charter. Not controlled just by the fiduciary obligation of the officer and directors to the shareholder.

That charter is going to supersede in some cases the interest of the shareholder, but that's what makes this interesting. The right investor will see this as a rebranding of capitalism and an opportunity to partner with people to address inequality and to completely change the landscape that's out there.

If an investor is somebody who is exclusively concerned with their return on capital and not the people on the other end, then they're not the right investor. And that's what I mean by finding the right investor.

But I'll say this: the return on this is going to be the same or more than any other investment. It's just that the structure that we've put into place really does change the nature of the relationship between investor and people.

Because we're no longer-- in our company, they are not at each other's throats. In fact, they're partners and they have an incentive to work together to achieve these great goals that we've set for ourselves. And I'll remind you what that is.

We are going to defend-- we are going to reinforce democracy where it lives, we are going to defend it where it's challenged. And we're going to give rise to it everywhere else.

Kim Ades: [00:07:27]
Okay. Talk about passion. I thought I was passionate. I think you trump me. Okay. So when we spoke last time, you were grappling with the team that you were building and that you had two different, let's say factions in your team.

One that thrived on, let's call it problem solving, innovation, and the other that was a little bit more of a supportive playing role. And these two sides weren't necessarily aligned.

Murray Simser: [00:07:59]
Yes! I do recall that conversation.

Kim Ades: [00:08:02]
Yeah. Where did we land on that? I know that when we posted your podcast, we got comments from people on your team saying "thank you for the conversation with Murray". So something happened that worked! So tell me what happened there and what is your challenge today.

Murray Simser: [00:08:21]
So we actually-- Your feedback was completely implemented. You know...

Kim Ades: [00:08:28]
Wow.

Murray Simser: [00:08:28]
...we went through an exercise, regrettably, where we had to triage the team a little bit. And I think that's a normal thing inside of startups. But I actually took a page from your book and I started to make sure that I spent a lot more time, for the new people that were joining the organization, assessing their ability to sort of fit in one of those two camps, and I'll remind people what those two camps were, just for fun.

In a startup, everybody loves this sort of glamour, "Oh, I did a startup in this sort of business". Okay? But only half of the people that joined the startup actually want to do the work that's necessary for that passion to turn into something that's interesting.

And so when you end up with are these people with expectations that are set incorrectly. The people who are passionate, they're all passionate about it, but when it boils down to it, you know, are you able to work at 9:00 PM at night? And if it's 1:30 in the morning and six o'clock in the morning, and there's somebody in Europe that wants to talk to you...

If you're not capable of working in that type of environment, you're not worthy of a startup. And I don't mean that you're not worthy as a person, but rather your skillset and your expectations just don't fit.

Kim Ades: [00:09:36]
Right.

Murray Simser: [00:09:37]
And so, I've spent a good amount of time making sure that I set expectations with the new people that have joined the team since that time. And I'm really delighted to say that I think that triage exercise, the feedback that you gave us was really helpful.

And I would say the podcast was really helpful because it also illuminated the problem in a non-confrontational way for those that were existing in the organization. So some of them self-selected into the right behavior. Some of them didn't self-select into the right behavior and they had to go, and that's okay! That's the nature of a startup.

Kim Ades: [00:10:16]
So you shared the podcast?

Murray Simser: [00:10:17]
But in this case, our new team is all set.

Kim Ades: [00:10:19]
Okay. But you shared the podcast with your team.

Murray Simser: [00:10:22]
Of course I did.

Kim Ades: [00:10:23]
They heard it and they--

Murray Simser: [00:10:24]
They did, and they loved it!

Kim Ades: [00:10:26]
Awesome.

Murray Simser: [00:10:26]
They were like "Oh yeah, we like her!"

Kim Ades: [00:10:29]
Fantastic. Okay. So where are we now? What is your current, hottest, biggest, most complicated challenge? I'm asking for a lot.

Murray Simser: [00:10:36]
So, my hottest, biggest, most complicated challenge right now, I think is the management of a corporation behind this video camera. Okay? And by this, I mean, we have done incredible things over the last year, despite everything. But there is a sort of fatigue that sets in when you can't get people as motivated as you normally would be.

When you can't have a social occasion now and again, when you can't shake somebody's hand, there are people in this organization by-- but by and large, everybody in this organization, unless I knew them before this COVID started, I have never seen them.

I've never-- I haven't shaken their hand, I haven't had occasion to take them out for dinner, get to know them a little bit. There's only so much you can do over Zoom, and I have to say that I think when you have a team like ours, that's virtual, that is in India, New York, Europe, spread across Canada, spread across the United States...

You know, it's a harder thing, and I think this is something that's not been seen before. Were you haven't at least had a catalytic moment where you were together and then you went off to your respective locations. We haven't had that personal touch that that often creates bonds between people.

And I see a lot of people sort of depending on their character. And I say this sort of loosely, my character is loud and outgoing and I'll reach out, and I don't care. I'm perfectly happy in these environments. But there are other people that don't necessarily have the character to do that, to get out in front, to share their  feelings, to say what they're thinking.

And I often find I have to sort of go in and find them. And actively engage with some team members to keep them motivated and keep them... Citizn top of mind. And I seem to spend a lot more time on doing that as the time is going forward, because I think this is really weighing on people.

Kim Ades: [00:12:41]
So it sounds like what you're really looking for is a bit more of a personal connection, interaction, personal touch with the people on your team, not only from you to them, but between them and each other.

Murray Simser: [00:12:54]
Yes!

Kim Ades: [00:12:55]
Okay.

Murray Simser: [00:12:56]
That second part is what I'm actually talking about. Okay?

Kim Ades: [00:13:00]
Okay.

Murray Simser: [00:13:00]
Meeting them, I can-- I'm capable of reaching out and doing it. But this is not a pyramid scheme. Okay? Where I'm at the top, and there was the money to do with your pool. This is a startup.

A startup doesn't work on a hierarchical basis. Okay. It works on the innovation basis and that requires the people on the team to work together and help each other out, discover ways of doing things, talk about stuff. Yeah.

Kim Ades: [00:13:25]
So I want to share with you-- you know, usually I just have a very specific kind of a formula for everything, but in this case, I want to share with you a personal experience that I had this past year, that kind of shocked me. And this is what it was.

When we... What we do, one of the pieces that we do is we certify people in what we call The Frame of Mind Coaching Methodology. A lot of those people who come for certification are leaders who have been through coaching, who say, "Holy crap! That was amazing. How do I learn how to coach? How do I bring coaching into my organization?"

And so for the past, I don't know how many years, maybe 10 years, we've certified people in this methodology of coaching. And one of the parts of certification is that people come into town to Toronto for a four-day in-person intimate, deep dive event. And they build very, very intimate relationships in person that last way beyond these four days. But COVID hit, we can't do that.

And so we canceled the first one because it was really at the very beginning of COVID. We didn't know what was going to happen. We didn't know how things were going to go down. And when we realized COVID is a long lasting experience, we decided to have our in-person, we call it Frame of Mind Methods experience on Zoom.

Murray Simser: [00:14:47]
Right.

Kim Ades: [00:14:48]
And I was determined to make it the best online experience that anyone could ever have. So that it would be engaging, it would be interesting, it would be entertaining, it would be intimate, it would be deep. Just like an in-person experience.

Murray Simser: [00:15:05]
Right.

Kim Ades: [00:15:05]
Minus having dinner in person. You know, minus giving somebody a physical hug, minus, you know... So, to the best of our ability. And so we organized a three-day event. Now, what was involved in the three-day event?

There was a tactile piece, physically. A tactile piece where we literally sent them a box full of stuff. And that box was filled with assignments, exercise equipment. Not like weights, but things that they needed to do for various exercises during the Zoom experience.

Murray Simser: [00:15:45]
Right.

Kim Ades: [00:15:45]
But it was just filled with stuff that complimented our agenda.

The second thing that happened was we organized an agenda that was deliberately designed to create intimacy between individuals. And over this time period, what happened was a level of intimacy that was even beyond in-person meetings, because there was so much face-to-face time actually that took place.

And by the end of the three days, we always ask for feedback, we send out evaluation forms and the overwhelming feedback was it was too short. They wanted more. And so what I would suggest to you--

Murray Simser: [00:16:31]
Really?

Kim Ades: [00:16:31]
Yes, crazy. It was incredible. I was personally blown away and shocked with what we could pull off. And what I want to share with you is that two things.

Number one, is that creating an environment of connection and intimacy requires just as much innovation as the kind of thinking and innovation that you're putting into your product and your product development and how it gets rolled out.

Murray Simser: [00:16:59]
Yes.

Kim Ades: [00:17:00]
You have an innovative team. Leverage them, lean on them.

Murray Simser: [00:17:02]
Yes.

Kim Ades: [00:17:04]
Number two is when you provide structure for people where they are pushed into or moved into situations in a guided way, where they need to talk to each other and even give it a methodology for that talking, that talking takes place. And the depth, the connection, the intimacy you're looking for, actually happens.

And last but not least is when you to decide as a team to carve out the time for this purpose...

Murray Simser: [00:17:38]
Yeah.

Kim Ades: [00:17:39]
Right? Where you're really focused on only the personal piece, rather than the business piece and all the other stuff you're always talking about...

Murray Simser: [00:17:48]
Yeah.

Kim Ades: [00:17:49]
And you stick to those rules of engagement, magic can happen. And what we're looking for is commitment to that objective.

Murray Simser: [00:18:00]
I think that that's-- I think that's a really interesting thing to hear because in the end... You know, I'm going to log in on another computer so we can actually see each other. But in the end it's sort of thesis that you're proposing... I would have always thought like, "okay, well that's extra stuff. That Zoom, okay. Or Teams or whatever platform you're on.

But what you're telling me is, even though you're adding more time on camera, by creating a sort of backstory, something that's intimate, by sending them things, what you actually end up with is the intimacy that may be lacking typically in the Zoom environment.

And I think that that in the end is something I have not yet centered as a viable option.

Kim Ades: [00:18:50]
And it's how you structure this meeting that matters. And in our case, I was the facilitator. I was the leader of this event. You may want to work with someone who can help you do that. You may choose to do that yourself.

Murray Simser: [00:19:05]
Right.

Kim Ades: [00:19:05]
But what you're looking for is someone who can facilitate how conversation takes place and creates structure for those conversations to happen.

Murray Simser: [00:19:16]
Absolutely.

Kim Ades: [00:19:18]
So I hope that that was useful.

Murray Simser: [00:19:21]
It is very useful, as a matter of fact. I think that I'm going to... I'm going to send to them this version of it as well, and we'll see how they (...)

Kim Ades: [00:19:34]
And maybe what happens is they say, "we love her so much that we want her to help us pull this off". And I'm open to that.

Murray Simser: [00:19:41]
And that's exactly it.

Kim Ades: [00:19:44]
At the end of the day, what you're talking about is creating-- setting a stage for an ongoing relationship to take place.

Murray Simser: [00:19:50]
That's correct.

Kim Ades: [00:19:51]
So you do need a moment where people are truly connecting one-on-one. You do need that, you know, that synaptic connection to take place for the relationships to build. And also for trust to take place, for trust to happen.

So, you know, while Zoom seems like an unlikely platform, it's not the platform that's lacking. It's our innovation about how we use the platform that really matters. And so that's my message for the day.

Murray Simser: [00:20:20]
Well, I think that that's a trait. Look, let me tell you something, every time you get on here, you give me a nugget that I can sort of implement, practically speaking. And so, you know, in the end, the sort of thesis is get creative, innovate. It's sort of the startup mantra anyway.

Quit the whining about the sort of structure that's out there. It is what it is. And try to make the best of it. You know, it's age old wisdom and advice applied to something very practical and real.

And I think that you'll probably see some comments on this post, too. "Yeah. We like that". And it'll be, you know, "send us gift cards, send us all the rest of it". So it'll be some fun stuff.

Kim Ades: [00:21:01]
Yes. And I can give you all kinds of creative ideas that will surprise them, you could say.

Murray Simser: [00:21:07]
Wonderful. I'm looking forward to that.

Kim Ades: [00:21:10]
Okay. Murray, I-- you know what? I can't wait to have you back yet another time, in a few months when the challenge is new. You're going to be THE returning guest.

Murray Simser: [00:21:20]
I would love that, Kim! As always, you're exceptional, you're gifted. I appreciate all of the comments and support. And frankly, I appreciate the opportunity to talk about CITIZN any time, anywhere--

Kim Ades: [00:21:33]
That is clear. That is clear.

Murray Simser: [00:21:36]
[Laughs]

Kim Ades: [00:21:36]
But what I want to say is stay on the phone with me. I might have someone to introduce you to, as an investor.

Murray Simser: [00:21:43]
Excellent. Do you want me to stay on here or do you want me to call you on the...?

Kim Ades: [00:21:47]
Stay right on here.

Murray Simser: [00:21:49]
Okay. Perfect.

Kim Ades: [00:21:49]
For those of you who are listening, I hope that... I don't know. Every time I talked to Murray, I get charged, I get excited, I get energized. Not that I'm not already energized, but now it's double. I hope that you took something away from this particular episode.

If you have a challenge that you want to share on the podcast, please reach out to me.

My email address is kim@frameofmindcoaching.com

If you have a challenge that you want to discuss privately, please reach out to me as well.

Again, that's kim@frameofmindcoaching.com

And for those of you who are listening, please go to iTunes (Apple Podcasts), go to all the places where you can listen to this podcast. Like, share, tell people about it. And more importantly, if you have a challenge that you want to hear about, also reach out to me. I love the challenges. They're always exciting to me.

Until we see you next time.

Murray Simser: [00:22:43]
Bye-bye.

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