Transcript: How to Empower Your Students to Build Self-Trust

January 31, 2023

AMY PORTERFIELD: “You have to be careful—this is an elevated way to look at yourself as a course creator—you have to be careful that you are not enabling your students and making them feel or believe that without you they cannot be successful. Now, of course, your program is going to help them be successful. But I always say when I sell a program, there's two people in the mix: me and the student. It's not just all me, and it's not just all my student. So if you start to look at it that way, you'll see your part in it, but you'll also see their part in it.”  

INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-seven-figure business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, the budget, and the time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and a life you love, you're in the right place, friend. Let's get started. 

AMY: Well, hey, there. Welcome back to Online Marketing Made Easy 

At the time I'm recording—I'm doing a batch of episodes—I just got back from a really fun girls’ trip in Napa, and I got to see Brendon Burchard, who actually lives in Napa now. And it was so much fun.  

And here's the great thing about being in this industry for a long time. So for those of you who have been here for a long time, you'll get this. Those of you who are kind of new, just getting started, here’s something that you really get to look forward to. I knew Brendon, over fourteen years ago, before I even left my last corporate job. And so to be sitting with him in Napa, drinking wine, eating great food, reminiscing about how we met and the funny things that have happened throughout the last fourteen years, it's such a wonderful feeling to remember, like, how long you've been in the game and how far you've come, and to watch a friend thrive and hear about all their successes. It's just a really beautiful thing. And to make friends in the industry and to watch them grow and watch them evolve and for them to see it in you, I just think that's magical.  

So I guess the reminder I have for you is to make sure you're making those connections in your industry. Get into those masterminds, make friends online, make it a point to meet those friends you meet online in the real world at a coffee shop, at a restaurant.  

But you have to ask. Like, I called Brendon. I said, “I'm going to be in town. Do you want to get together?” And so you got to make the effort. And making those friendships now and then ten, fifteen years from now, when you each see each other grow and do amazing things, it's such a fun thing to reminisce on.  

So go make those friendships, connect with the people you want to connect with, and put the effort in so that you have these really fun experiences down the road. 

That’s all. That’s all I really wanted to share with you. Well, just for the intro. I have more to share with you now because today the topic, oh, it's so good.  

I think you're going to gain a lot of value from this topic because it's something I've never, ever, ever talked about before. And essentially, we're going to talk about how to empower your students versus too much hand-holding. Yeah, we're going to talk about it because here's the thing. I was recently chatting with one of my community managers. And if you’re in any of my communities, you know these women who manage my communities. Sylvia, Brittani, and Megan, they are amazing. They're powerhouses. And they love my students. Like, beyond. Like, I think I love my students, but sometimes I think they love my students even more. And one of my community managers, she mentioned that she'd been going back and forth with one of our students, trying to support the student as much as possible.  

Now, what it came down to was that my community manager offered a top-tier level of support that we actually do not offer our students. I don't want to go into specifics, but basically, I had no idea she had done this. I wasn't upset, but I was surprised because it took a lot of her time and effort, and again, it's not something we offer. And I knew that she did it out of the kindness of her heart because she cares so deeply about our community and she wants to make sure that everyone feels supported.  

Now, don't get me wrong, I, too, want each and every one of my students to feel supported. But where do we, as entrepreneurs, draw the line between holding our students’ hands and empowering them to trust themselves to figure out what they need to do?  

So in this episode we're going to chat about ways to teach your students how to take ownership and empower them versus needing to hold their hand, making them believe that they need you more than they can trust themselves.  

Did you hear that last part? I think that as teachers, trainers, we have a responsibility in this, meaning if we go too far, we actually can convince our students that they need us more than they can trust themselves. And we all know that that is absolutely not true. 

Now I want to give you some boundaries around supporting your students. And this is coming from someone who literally cares deeply about the success of her students. So I want you to hear that. I feel like I want to say that a hundred times through this episode because this episode is a little bit awkward for me to create because I'm talking to some of my students right now. Some of you are my students. But I also know if you're my student, then you're learning to teach other students. You're learning to be the teacher if you're not already, and so you need to hear this. So we've got to have this awkward conversation. So here we are.  

So I'm going to give you some boundaries around how you're going to serve your students. And in the end, although this is going to be tough, not only does it serve you, but it also serves your students in such a big way. So it's like that old proverb, right? If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. And I believe that. And for those of you listening right now that might be my student, and you feel like you need more support or more hand-holding, I'm going to give you a little bit of tough love, and I'm going to ask you to trust yourself a little bit more. So stay with me. 

Now, let me go first, and I'll share a little bit about why we at Team Porterfield find that it's so important to set boundaries and make sure that we find realistic ways to support our students within my business. And I have a feeling that these are going to be the same reasons for you as well. So listen up because I kind of want to break it down a little bit.  

First of all, this idea of creating a space. So there needs to be a community or maybe inside your program that empowers and encourages your students to figure something out themselves,  because if I were to say, “Okay, I'm going to offer one-on-one support calls to every student that comes into my programs to help them figure out everything they need,” obviously, that wouldn't be sustainable in my business because I have a really big business now, but it wouldn't have been sustainable five, six, seven years ago. So no matter where you are, I'm guessing that's not what you're going to offer: one-on-one support to every student who comes into your digital course.  

I mean, let's be honest. The reason why I started creating digital courses in the first place is that I wanted to move away from one-on-one support, trading time for dollars. So I can't, then, get back into that, say, “Well, I have a course, but I'm also going to support each of my students one on one,” right? That doesn't even make sense.  

But at the same time, we need to make sure that the students that come into our programs feel supported but also feel empowered to support themselves. That's something I've never talked about before. I feel a responsibility to support my students and make sure that I deliver on my promise. But I also need to create a program that empowers my students to support themselves.  

So on my end, I have three community team members inside of our community. And, like, during Digital Course Academy, we support students with ambassadors, which are my alumni that I bring into the program to support the new students. So I do my part, but at the same time, three community team members and, let's say, even ten ambassadors can't one on one support a group of three thousand new DCA students, right?  

So how do we do this? Well, number one, we acknowledge the fact that we would love to support everybody at an individual level, but that is not possible. So we just, like, talk about the elephant in the room, and we set boundaries so that we avoid being an enabler. You have to be careful—this is an elevated way to look at yourself as a course creator—you have to be careful that you are not enabling your students and making them feel or believe that without you they cannot be successful. Now, of course, your program is going to help them be successful. But I always say when I sell a program, there's two people in the mix: me and the student. It's not just all me, and it's not just all my student. So if you start to look at it that way, you'll see your part in it, but you'll also see their part in it. 

So one thing I found to be extremely helpful is to be extra, extra, extra clear about expectations with my students. So when someone joins a program, it should be clear what they're getting in terms of support. So when it comes to Digital Course Academy, we make it very clear that we have a community to support them. Within that community, I have my community members, so that's my three people I talked about, and I talked about the DCA alumni. And they all try to answer as many questions as possible, but they don't always get to every single question. So when I'm selling the program, I'll say that you have an opportunity to get your questions answered in the community, although I cannot promise that every question is going to be answered. I also make it clear that I have my team in there, I have my alumni, and I'm in there, but I'm not the only person supporting everyone.  

Now, on the flip side of that, my students are encouraged to lean on one another in their learning process. And I talk about this a lot. So we do this through community engagement and through helping them find accountability pods. We have a whole program put together inside the community to find a pod of people to go through the program with. We do that intentionally so that people get the support they need, and it's not just on us to get the support they need.  

Also, I promise to go live with them for nine weeks, every single week, during Q&As. So I do live Q&As with them, but I don't make that the end all, be all. I tell them all the other ways they can get their questions answered. And we actually go through a list of, “Okay, if you have a question or if you're stuck, here's five ways to get an answer.” I talk about this early on in the program, and I repeat myself several times so that they know how to get their questions answered. That's important as well.  

And then we started to see a lot of techie type of questions coming up. So then I’ve got a resident tech expert in the group doing a live Q&A every week as well.  

So again, I do my part, but I make sure they know they need to do theirs as well.  

Now, when it comes to List Builders Society, my other program, I offer a bonus where my students get a year of monthly live Q&As with me. So at the very beginning of each monthly live, I say, “Please have patience if I don't get to your question. We get thousands of questions, and I try to cover as many as possible. I also try to notice themes and patterns, and answer those types of questions that I see popping up again and again just in different ways. So if you don't get your specific question answered, you may notice I answer a similar question that gives you the support you need.” So I say that at the beginning of every live Q&A I do with my students.  

So first of all, determine how you're going to add support. And then, communicate it and make sure that you have very clear expectations of how you're going to deliver it, meaning your students understand how you're going to deliver that support.  

Now, another piece of the puzzle that has truly helped with empowering my students to confidently problem solve on their own is to give them tons of support resources. Now, when I say tons, I also want to say that we're very mindful about just how many, and we make sure our students know that they can take what they need—and this is important—leave what they don't so they don't get overwhelmed.  

You'll hear me say this in my classes a lot, “Hey, if you don't need it, leave it.” Like, no need to actually belabor over something that is not essential to you. I have bonuses in Digital Course Academy about list building, but I'll say, “If you've already grown your list, don't go through that bonus and waste your time. Just move forward in the core program.”  

So I have no problem with my students not going through everything I give them. If you need it, great. If not, leave it. You don't need it? Leave it. So it's there for them, and they know it's there for them.  

Now, when I say resources, I found that my students love having a tech library, so somewhere they can go in and watch click by click how to do something. Also, a blueprint or a framework of how to move through the program. A resource section. So if you need a web designer, a copywriter, those things always come up, so I have a resource section. A getting-started guide that shows them exactly the steps that they need to take when they first join. And then, of course, those live Q&As.  

So these are different ways I offer support. So I'm showing up and doing my part. But they need to say, “Oh, I'm stuck. I need to locate what resource I need.”  

And listen, this has been a learning process for me and my team. We're always listening to our students and noticing where they get stuck, what they're asking for, and then brainstorming how we can support them without hand-holding. So it's a lot of trial and error, and I've been in the game for a long time, so I have this pretty well developed. You might not yet, and that's okay. I think all of us have to go through this process to get to where we feel confident that we are doing our part and we're encouraging our students to do theirs. 

Now, if you're early on in your business or if you're launching your course very soon, as tempting as it might be to hold your students’ hands at every step, set those perimeters right now. You cannot handhold to the point that they think they can't do it without you. Your program will guide them. But there's agency here. They need to feel confident that they can figure it out when they get stuck, because everyone gets stuck. I don't care how great your program is. They're going to get stuck along the way, and I want them to feel empowered to get unstuck themselves.  

So another thing to think about: as your student numbers grow, you'll be glad you practiced these boundaries early on.  

Okay. I want to flip the script right now and talk to those of you who find yourself requiring help from or leaning on your coaches or mentors a little too much at times. Now, I'm going to guess that many of you listening right now who might be doing this don't even know you're doing it.  

So here's another way to kind of identify it, if you need to self-identify, if this is you. If you feel resentful that you've purchased a digital course—let's say it's an expensive digital course, like two thousand dollars—and you feel like you're not getting your questions answered. You feel as though you're not getting the one-on-one support you need. You sometimes feel resentful that the person in charge of the course or their coaches are not getting on a phone call with you or having a discussion with you in DMs, like a private discussion. If you feel resentful that you purchased a digital course or a program or group coaching and you're not getting the kind of support you need, I first want you to go back and look at what was promised to you. And if it was false advertising, and if you feel resentful, then maybe it's something that you need to talk to the course creator about. But I'm going to guess, more often than not, it wasn't false advertising, but instead, your expectations are a little bit higher than they should be.  

And hear me out because this is a little tough love. And don't get me wrong. Asking questions and learning from others is such an important part of entrepreneurship. I do it all the time. But there needs to be a balance.  

And over the years, and I'm talking fifteen years, I've done tons of masterminds that I've paid for, digital courses that I've bought, group coaching. And if I can be candid here, I never, ever expect anyone to hold my hand in the process to get me the results that I want. If I needed to figure something out, I’d lean into the resources offered. I’d do the research I need. I would try it, and if it didn't work, I'd go back to the drawing board and try something else. I would connect with people in the community. If I got a chance to do live Q&A with a group and my question got answered, great. But if it didn't, I'd be like, “All right. Where am I going to get this answer? How am I going to figure this out?”  

When writing this episode for you, I had to ask myself, “What was it that helped me to do this versus the expectation for hand-holding?” I never felt resentful that a coach, even a one-on-one coach—I coach one on one with my mentor, and never once do I expect him to figure it out for me or to make extra time for me or to do sessions outside of what we agreed on. Never.  

And listen, I'm not tooting my own horn, thinking, “I'm so great.” I'm actually telling you, if you're not getting the support you need and you feel resentful or you feel like you deserve more handholding than you're getting, I really want this to be the moment that you shift that mindset, and you think, “Wait a second. Everything I need is within me. Everything I need. The answers are within me, meaning I have the ability to figure this out on my own.” 

And getting back to, like, when I was writing this episode and I had to ask myself, like, “Why did I always feel like I could figure this out?” I noticed a few things, and I hope this helps you. I've noticed that it's truly a mindset shift. If you find yourself expecting the hand-holding or feeling resentful that you're not getting it versus this mindset shift that everything is figureoutable, I want you to ask yourself a really tough question. Where is this coming from? Do you truly trust yourself?  

And I know this is not an easy question, but entrepreneurship offers us this opportunity to grow and to build our self-trust because at the end of the day, it's just you, my friend. In this company that I have, I have a beautiful team, but at the end of the day, it's me. It's up to me. So we have to have self-trust.  

If you ever notice that you're having trouble trusting yourself or making decisions, like you want to ask everybody else—I've totally been there—or if you're having trouble believing that you have what it takes to figure this out on your own, it's okay. You're not alone. And there's nothing wrong with you.  

First things first, you just got to notice that. Like, there have been times, even though I feel like I really trust myself now, there have been times in the past where I don't want to make a decision because I'm scared I'm going to make the wrong one. And so I then start asking everybody else their opinion. And let me tell you, everyone's got one, right? And they're all different. So now I'm like, “Oh, great. Now I have, like, ten different ways I could go, where it's kind of made it even worse.”  

And the thing is, if I can give you a little extra tough love, if you can't trust yourself, growing will be more difficult as an entrepreneur. Like, you have to say, “I'm going to cut bait. I'm not going to ask anyone else's opinion here. I'm just going to go with my gut.”  

I was working with my mentor recently, and I have a really big decision to make around something, an opportunity that was brought to me, and my gut is telling me it's not the right way to go, although my mind is like, “But it could be so good.” But my gut keeps saying no. And my mentor said, “You have to, you just have to listen to that. I don't even care what the pros and cons are. You have to go with your gut.” And the more you go with your gut, whether you like what happens or not, the more you go with your gut, no matter what happens, you can then say, “Oh, that didn't work out as planned. I want to go a different way,” and you do, and you just keep doing it. Or “That worked out great,” and now you feel more grounded in going with your gut. But if it doesn’t work out as planned, you will eventually get to a place that you're satisfied; you just can't give up. So you'll get to that confidence place of “I'm glad I followed my gut all the way to the end because the outcome was what I wanted.” I always believe you can get there.  

I have a friend that went through Digital Course Academy. And in Digital Course Academy, I recommend two different platforms because I like to give my students some options, and I use both of them. So I use Kajabi, and I use Searchie. And she started to use Kajabi, and then I was promoting Searchie during a special event. And I didn't know what was going on in her head at the time—this was all virtual—but she sent me a text. And I won't name any names, because that's not even important. I just want to kind of share what went through her mind because this is such a great example of what I'm talking about. She sent me a text, and she said, “I just want to share with you that I felt really resentful to you when you were promoting Searchie, and I had already started using Kajabi. And I thought, ‘Oh, great. Now I went down this rabbit hole with Kajabi. I'm new to all this. It's all very foreign to me. I'm very overwhelmed. So I'm using Kajabi, but now you're saying Searchie’s great.’”  

And so what I took away from that is I just need to be really clear that I think both platforms are great, and you can't go wrong with either. And I need to make that clear in the future. So she gave me a lesson. But more importantly, she was already going down this road. But because she felt so overwhelmed with creating her course, and this is all new to her, and she's figuring it out, the minute she got information that didn't feel as though it fit in the trajectory she was going, she kind of, like, threw up her hands, and she's like, “Screw it. This is too hard. Now I'm getting misinformation. Who am I supposed to trust? Now I'm confused. What way do I go?” whereas if she can trust herself more—and this takes time—if she could trust herself more, in the future she can say, “You know what? I set out on this route. Months ago, Amy introduced me to Kajabi. Obviously, she wouldn't have introduced me to it if it didn't work, so I'm going to go down this road. Yes, it's difficult right now. Yes, I feel uncomfortable, but I'm going to trust I can figure it out.”  

And so I wanted to share this story because what self-trust looks like is when you get information that doesn't quite fit into what you're doing or how you're doing it, you don't throw your hands up and you don't get frustrated, but you instead say, “You know what? I've gone down this path. I'm going to stick with it. I'm going to trust myself that I will figure it out no matter what.” That is a beautiful feeling, my friends. To say, “Even if it gets rocky, even if it goes a way I don't expect it to go, I know that I am capable of figuring anything out.” And the way you do that is you look back in your personal life, in your business life, and you remind yourself of all the things you figured out.  

Because my friend is very, very successful in what she does. She’s got a thriving business already. She just wants to add courses to it. She's gone through a lot of stuff to get where she's gone, so she has a proven track record of being able to trust herself. I think she just forgot that.  

And so I just wanted to offer that quick little story to you because you're going to get information that might throw you off track. Come back to that gut feeling, knowing you are capable of figuring anything out, so you're just going to stay the course. So when you feel like you're rattled easily or resentful quickly against your coaches or mentors, come back to “Where is this coming from? And where am I not trusting myself?” I hope you heard that. I know someone needed to hear that. Where you not trusting yourself? because your resentment or frustration with others is really just a reflection of how you're feeling about yourself.  

And here's the thing: the next time you're not trusting yourself or the next time you feel frustrated, overwhelmed, resentful—those are all possible indicators that you're not trusting yourself, by the way—the next time you feel that, I want to challenge you to notice, notice it right away. Say, “Okay, I see it. I feel it.” And then I want you to take that mentality hack from Marie Forleo and tell yourself, “Everything is figureoutable. I've got this. I can figure this out.” And then, you start looking for evidence that you can figure it out. Where are the resources? Who can I talk to you? Where's my community right now? The more you do this over and over again, I promise you, your confidence will build. Listen, I still get rattled. Things still throw me off at times, but I'm able to bounce back so quickly because I have evidence that I have figured the hard things out in the past. Like, I just look for the evidence. And then I always think, “I know I am capable of figuring this out.” So I just wanted to share that with you because I really do think it's going to help you immensely in the long run. 

Okay. So let’s wrap this up here. I wanted to, first, touch on, as a course creator, how you're going to support your students but not enable them to think that they can't live without you. And then, I wanted to flip the script a little bit and say you might be that person expecting people to help you at a level that you're never going to get. So what do you do instead? I want you fully empowered. So if you're a course creator who's getting burnt out from over delivering and hand-holding your students, where can you set better boundaries while still supporting your students and making sure that they're cared for? What resources can you offer that allow them to find the answers for themselves? And how can you be more clear about the expectations of your program? We can all be more clear, I promise.  

Trust me, my friend. I know this can be tough, but in the end, not only does it serve you so you stay in the game longer without burnout, it allows your students to become better entrepreneurs or business owners or moms, dads. Whatever it is that you're helping them in, it allows them to become stronger in that area where they actually want to grow.  

And if you’d be so kind, if you know somebody else who’s creating courses, or if you know somebody else who is struggling to get the support they need, I hope you’ll share this episode with them. Just grab a link for this specific episode. Text it to a friend. I think it could really help a lot of people.  

All right. Thanks for hanging out with me. Bye for now. 

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