By the time Elizabeth contacted me to help her create an e-course she had decided she was not out to make a regular here’s-how-you-use-social-media e-course. And she sure didn’t have a typical business goal for building her e-course (like “To build a sales funnel” or “To bring in money while I’m on vacation” – that kind of thing).
What Elizabeth wanted to do first and foremost was to make her clients happier. She was convinced that happier clients would lead to more success in their business and she was all about being a catalyst for that.
It just so happens that I’ve read a ton about positivity and happiness. It’s like a hobby of mine. So I was pretty well equipped to help Elizabeth out.
But what I wish I had read (and hadn’t at the time) was a book by Happiness consultant, Shawn Achor, called The Happiness Advantage:The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success & Performance at Work.
Shawn Achor shares the same premise as Elizabeth – that happiness leads to more productivity and more success. In his book he lays out seven principles, and incorporates many tips and techniques that I’ll apply here to the design of your e-course.
So thanks to having just read Achor’s book, I can now give you the advice I wish I could have given to Elizabeth!
What’s next are some concrete techniques and approaches you can implement immediately. But first I’ll start with an intriguing concept that is at the heart of this idea that you can influence other people’s happiness. It’s called “emotional contagion”.
Emotional Contagion? Let’s Discuss.
Has this happened to you? You’re home alone, perfectly happy and content puttering around the house when your spouse or partner comes home from work in a no good, rotten, foul mood.
And before you know it, you realize YOU’RE in a no good. rotten, foul mood too. What?! How did that happen?
Here’s how – something called “emotional contagion” has taken over. What this says is that emotions are contagious. It’s been proven. You’re not crazy.
And you have the power to make happiness contagious. In every email you send out about the course, in the videos you make for your course, in the interactions you have with your learners.
So, if you share Elizabeth and Shawn Achor’s belief that happiness fuels success, who you are and how you are with your clients counts.
There ARE concrete things you can do. Here are 2 practices you can put in place before engaging with your clients or working on your e-course. Think of these as “priming” activities..
Prime Yourself for Happiness Activity 1:
Train your brain to constantly and consistently look for positive things, emotions, and actions related to your business and your clients.
One way to do that:
Keep a positivity journal on your desk and put in place some triggers to get you to use it.
Examples of Triggers:
- When you get off the phone or Skype. Each time that happens you would then immediately jot down something positive about the interaction you just had.
- When your phone alarm goes off. Set your phone alarm to go off every hour or two or three to prompt you to jot down a positive experience you’ve had in your business so far that day. (You could even just speak these into your phone’s voice memo app.) For me, I use my Fitbit app. I’ve set it to vibrate 2ce a day as a trigger for me to write down my positives. I love it!
- At the beginning of each client call. Share one positive thing about your client (something you admire about them or a positive thing you noticed, for example). Keep a tally and try to make it a consistent thing. (Check out the Jerry Seinfeld Strategy.)
Prime Yourself for Happiness Activity 2:
Increase your feelings of gratitude.
One way to do that:
Reflect on and jot down the things you’re grateful for about your business and clients at the end of each day.
I can hardly get away from research and people talking about this! Try it! Reflect on and jot down the things you’re grateful for at the end of the day. (I do 3 of these each night ‘cuz that’s what the research says works.) To get the full benefit, feel the gratitude, don’t just mechanically write it down.
Make both these things a habit and you’ve done one of the most important things you can for your business and your clients – become more positive and happy yourself.
That’s great, but what about your course?
6 ways to increase happiness in your course to make your clients a success
1) Get your learners in the right mindset
Let’s face it, sometimes taking that e-course feels a bit like a pain the rear. You know you *should* click on that link and start slogging through it, but you’re swamped with things to do – like laundry and oh, those dishes! And there’s a zillion things I should be doing to get more clients and oh, there’s that webpage that needs attention.
That IS NOT what we want our learners to be thinking!
What might you do about that? Prime the hell out of them, of course! Priming is a powerful technique that can help you raise positive expectations about your course so your learners are eager to dive in.
You know to do that when you’re crafting your sales copy. But don’t stop there, up to the point of sale. Keep it up in your subsequent emails. And keep it up in the beginning of each module.
Think of your avatar (got one?). This is the profile of your target customer.
- Assume they are full of self-doubt about their ability to really make an ROI out of the course.
- Assume they are dragging their feet about taking your course.
- Assume they are skeptical (at least to some degree) that your course will make a difference to them.
Your job is to put them in a state of positive expectation by setting them up to believe that they really will get a fantastic ROI out of the course, that it will make a difference to them.
This is a way to leverage the power of belief. Beliefs can change our results. It’s been proven (this isn’t a theory!).
So, what might you do? Pump them up! Be their cheerleader. Always be encouraging: This course WILL make a difference to them/their business/their life!
Do what you can to increase your learners’
positive expectations about the course.
2) Tip the Losada Line
You’ve probably heard this idea that for every time you ding your spouse/partner with a snarky comment or a put-down you’re supposed to counter that with 6 positives? 6? Yikes!
Well, the original research on this was by a guy named Marcial Losada who did some fancy math calculations on a boat load of research studies and came up with the 3:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make a work team successful. Sounds a little more doable but now researchers are saying it’s got to be more like a 6:1 ratio that helps people to perform at their very best. That’s a heck of a lot of positive feedback.
Let’s just consider that for a moment. If you were going to take that 6:1 ratio to heart, what might you do? To me, this means we have to really work hard to get our learner’s positive feedback. This doesn’t to me mean we give them easy quiz questions or dumb down our materials. To me it means to intentionally design positive feedback and messaging whenever we can.
Here’s some ideas:
- If you have a quiz, think about the messages your learner is seeing when they get an incorrect answer. If your quizzing software allows you to craft those messages, commend your learners on their effort. A “Good try” in a response goes far. Encouragement like “You can do it!” can seem a bit goofy, but it can be just the nudge of positivity the learner needs to keep going.
- Write a series of positive, encouraging messages to be sent out a various points in your course recognizing the learner’s progress through your course and applauding them for their efforts.
- Celebrate results from your homework or follow-up work.
- Make a big deal out of “graduations” from your course on Facebook or wherever you interact with your students.
Take every opportunity to give your learners positive feedback.
3) Help make your course a habit
This is not going to be helpful for you if you have a short course, but if yours is lengthy, listen up!
This tip is about doing what you can to set up your learners to make taking your course something they do systematically – at a certain time and place – so that it becomes part of their weekly work flow.
- Drip your course out week by week. Be super consistent. Send it out a x time on x day each week and encourage your learners to block out that time to take it right away.
- Schedule an online Q&A about that week’s module on a consistent day/time and encourage your learners to complete the previous module just before the call (or start the new one right after the call). Have them block that time out each week on their calendars.
- Ask them to share their time block in your course discussion place (like Facebook).
- Match up each learner with a buddy and give them questions at the end of each module to discuss. They’ll then get to use their buddy call as a catalyst for completing that segment of the course.
Create “deadlines” for learners each week.
4) Design social learning opportunities
There’s now a bunch of evidence that shows that we are happier and more productive if we have strong social ties. There’s also research that shows that individual learning behavior depends in part on something called psychological safety. Psychological safety is created by strong, positive social connections.
The point? Do what you can to design opportunities for people to learn together and connect.
- Create pairs or small groups of learners and give them group homework. For example, you might add discussion questions to each module. You might have a group go through a case study or assign them a small project.
- Create a special, closed group in Facebook and make sure you interact frequently with members.
- Introduce a learner to someone else doing the same thing or to someone in a complementary area.
- Encourage the creation of masterminds that will last long after your course is complete.
- Create face-to-face venues for your learners to meet or encourage them to do this themselves.
You can’t make people be best friends but you sure can help them create and maintain social connections as part of your course.
Give your learners reason to collaborate.
5) Build a Zorro Circle
The story behind how Shawn Achor came up with this name is fun but let me cut to the chase. The point is that you give people a way to become competent in one small area at a time. This gives them a sense of control that, to be honest, most of us need to feel successful.
This gets back to something I’ve talked about in the blog periodically – breaking down your topic into chunks and only focusing on one chunk at a time.
Once a student has achieved some competency in that one area – or chunk – recognize this. Call out their achievement. Make sure they get it that they’ve accomplished something here. And then move them up to the next level. Rinse and repeat.
Chunk your content into small segments that learners can master one at a time.
6) Make ‘em laugh
So far I’ve talked about all these techniques and none of them involve laughing. I mean, what’s up with that? Okay, to be honest, Shawn Achor doesn’t talk about that stuff. Seriously, a whole book about happiness and not one of his 6 principles has to do with humor. I just scanned the index to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Humor? Nothing. Laughter? Nothing.
Devastating! And so, I looked elsewhere. Whew, there’s Michelle Gielan, cofounder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research. She’s a fan of that lovely dopamine elexur. So is psychologist Steven Sultanoff who was actually the former president of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor! Yes, there’s an association for that!
So if your definition of happiness has to do with doing work that’s deeply meaningful to you or making progress towards goals you hold dear, okay, humor isn’t central to that.
But how is to say we shouldn’t play a role in giving people that feels-so-good dopamine hit? Increase their enjoyment? Mary Poppins didn’t say, “A sip of water helps the medicine go down,” now did she?
So how might you add some metaphorical sugar to get the medicine (I mean, course) down?
Yeah, that’s the thing. What’s funny to you may not be funny to me. So whenever you build in some humor into your course, consider it a test. Then, when you pilot, get some feedback. Is what you did just totally stupid or pretty hilarious? Find out!
Here’s what you might try:
- Out of the ordinary stock images that you take yourself.
- Off-beat, incorrect answers in your quiz.
- Scenarios and case studies with comical, just-can’t-get-it-right characters.
The good news, however, is that however effective – or not- your attemps at humor are, ultimately humor isn’t going to make or break your efforts to pump up your learners level of happiness.
But a good chuckle sure won’t hurt!
Surprise your learners by bringing some levity to your course and,
if possible, getting them to laugh out loud.
So there you have it – 6 tips – to spread happiness and joy. Here’s the recap:
- Do what you can to increase your learners’ positive expectations about the course.
- Take every opportunity to give your learners positive feedback.
- Create “deadlines” for learners each week.
- Give your learners reason to collaborate.
- Chunk your content into small segments that learners can master one at a time.
- Surprise your learners by bringing some levity to your course and, if possible, getting them to laugh out loud!
“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer someone else up.” – Mark Twain
As usual, hope this helps! And I’m here if – or when- you need me.