Dr. Sarah Eaton

Professor, Author and Researcher

Dr. Sarah Eaton - Professor, Author and Researcher

9 Things You Can Do When Leadership Styles Clash

Tonight I was reminded (yet again) that differences in leadership style can cause friction in a relationship. This is true whether that relationship is at work, at school, or at home.

Imagine this scenario: Two leaders are arguing about how to do something. They disagree based on their approach to the situation. They both believe they are right.

Leader profile #1: Project manager at a national corporation; Gets along with just about everyone; Laid back; Believes that rules are important, but not when they are just downright stupid; thinks everyone should play by the same rules and that equality is important.

Leader profile #2: Small business owner, educator, PhD in Leadership; Relentless about “leading by example”; Believes in “equitable, not equal” leadership; High achieving and not particularly laid back. (Oh yes, and she writes a blog called “Literacy, Languages and Leadership”, too.)


Me: You need to put this parking tag in your vehicle.

Leader #1: Why? It’s your spot and you’ve rented it.

Me: Yes, but you need the tag.

Leader #1: That’s just dumb. Everyone knows you. They know it’s your spot. It’s dark out and I’m tired. I don’t feel like going out to the car again. Just leave it. It’ll be fine.

Me: No, it won’t. I’m on the board of this community and we agree that we need the parking tags. I’m not saying it’s a perfect system. I’m saying that you need the tag in your car, particularly because I’m on the board and we can’t ask others to use tags if we, as board members, don’t do it ourselves.

Leader #1: But I’m not on the board.

Me: No, but the parking spot belongs to me and I’m on the board. Please put the tag in the car.

Reluctantly Leader #1 (who happens to be my other half, and the parking spot in question is in the complex where we live), trudged out to the car and displayed the tag.

This happens all the time. We are two strong, good people, with very different approaches. The same thing can happen at work or at school.

Here’s what to do:

1. Talk about it. Let each person explain their point of view and justify their stance.

2. Remain calm. Avoid yelling, screaming and name-calling.

3. Focus on the problem, not the person. Just because you don’t like the other person’s leadership style, doesn’t mean you have the right to be nasty. As my friend, Lisa Chell, says, words are powerful tools in relationships.

4. Pick your battles. Decide when it is worth fighting to the bitter end and when it is OK to give in.

5. Give in sometimes.. and stand your ground when you need to. In this case, the other person conceded the point. Sometimes, I’m the one to make a concession.

6. Acknowledge the other person’s efforts to communicate with you. If the other person gives you the space to express yourself, listens and works with you to find an agreement, then acknowledge that. It takes more effort and self-control to do that than it does to fly off the handle in a rage.

7. Be prepared to act. If the other person digs in their heels, and you don’t want to deal with the repercussions, then be prepared to do some things yourself. This should be the exception to the rule though, not a modus operandi.

8. Acknowledge that your differences may be due to individual styles or approaches. Usually, there is more than one way to solve a problem. The amount of risk involved in each option may be different. Some people have a lower tolerance for risk than others. By acknowledging that often there is no single “right” way, conflicts are minimized.

9. Work together as much as possible. Ask questions like, “What can we do to figure this out in a way that makes sense for both of us?” By focussing on solving the problem using a teamwork approach, you take the focus off the problem and put it on the solution. By doing so, conflict transforms into collaboration.

These are not foolproof suggestions and I can’t guarantee they’ll work 100% of the time. What I can say is that I’ve used these techniques at home and at work and often the result is even better than I expected.


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.

Are you looking for a speaker for your next event? Book me (Sarah Eaton) for your next event (either live or via webinar)! Contact us for details. Follow Dr. Sarah on Twitter.

Effective Learning Strategy: Get to Know Your Profs

As part of my Effective Learning course at the University of Calgary, I prepared this 3-page success strategy for university students to help them understand the importance of getting to know their instructors.

My students reported that it helped them think of their profs as “real people”. Some of them said it had never occurred to them that their professors were once where they were (!)

Feel free to share this with your own students or university-age children.

Read the full version or download a copy:

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Are you looking for a speaker for your next event? Book me (Sarah Eaton) for your next event (either live or via webinar)! Contact us for details. Follow Dr. Sarah on Twitter.

How I built a loyal, engaged Twitter following

Sarah Eaton TwitterThere’s a myth about Twitter followers. You don’t need more followers. You want more engaged followers.

I’ve been on Twitter since 2009. I spent probably 9 months figuring out what it was all about and how to use it. Then, I started looking at other people’s followings and wondering how they did it. That’s when I learned that some people literally buy followers, by paying into a service. Everyone who pays into the service follows each other. That inflates your following. But to me, those kinds of followers don’t mean anything. And I didn’t want them.

I wanted engaged followers: people who would have online conversations with me, retweet my Tweets, read my posts, make comments, offer suggestions. I wanted to interact with my followers.

I began making a conscious effort to increase my engagement levels and reciprocity.

Here’s how I did that:

  1. I used a service that allowed me to schedule my Tweets and included a dashboard so I could monitor conversations. I use Hootsuite, but there are other ones out there, too.
  2. Be consistent. I Tweet every day. Even if I’m in meetings all day, I still Tweet.
  3. Selective and strategic sharing. I make a point to share resources that I think others will enjoy and find useful.
  4. Regular retweeting. I repost interesting Tweets and give others credit for them.
  5. Original posts. I share my own material on a regular basis — but not too often.
  6. Watch your ratios. It can’t be a constant stream of output. You need to balance your output and asks with responses, acknowledgements and retrweets. Don’t expect others to share your stuff if you don’t share and acknowledge theirs.
  7. Have conversations. I engage with others in conversations about what is important to them.
  8. Block and report spammers. I nip these folks in the bud. I have no problem reporting spammers and neither should you.
  9. Follow back selectively. I don’t follow everyone who follows me. I follow people and organizations who seem to have legitimate profiles on topics I’m interested in.
  10. Vary the Tweet topics – within a selected range. I Tweet about a lot of stuff, mostly to do with education, training, literacy and social media.
  11. Acknowledge and appreciate your Tweeps. They don’t have to follow you, retweet your stuff or give you a shoutout, you know. Showing appreciation helps build good digital relationships.
  12. Random acts of kindness. Promote a good cause. Mention a friend’s business. Give someone you don’t know a public compliment or shoutout.

As a result of these strategies, here’s what has happened:

  1. I’ve connected with people in real life. We go for coffee. We share ideas and laugh.
  2. I get retweeted every day… sometimes up to 20 or 30 times per day. This leads me to new people. If I think they’re interesting. I follow them. Sometimes, they follow me back.
  3. I’ve been offered work. Tweeps have contacted me to ask me to present at conferences and take on projects. Never was I more surprised than when I was offered a contract to build an evaluation system for an educational organization via a connection that originated on Twitter.
  4. I’ve learned tons. I check out new resources and share them freely. In the process, I stay on top of what is happening in my field. I’m current and up to date. Must of it is thanks so Twitter and social media.
  5. My understanding of social media has deepened considerably. Social media changes quickly, but for those who are new to it or still working to really understand what it is and how it can work for them, it is important to know that there are some fundamentals. One of those is that building an engaged following is much more important than just building a following.

If you liked this post, you’d probably like my Tweets, too. Let’s connect on Twitter.


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Are you looking for a speaker for your next event? Book me (Sarah Eaton) for your next event (either live or via webinar)! Contact us for details. Follow Dr. Sarah on Twitter.

How to do a Screen Capture on Your Mac (video tutorial)

Last week in the Build Your Own Webinar course that I’m teaching we were talking about the various ways to make your slides and handouts engaging. If you are demonstrating something technical, one of the ways to show people what you mean is to include a screen capture from your computer.

There are a number of Mac users in the course and one of them asked how to do a screen capture (also called a “screen shot”).

So, here’s a quick video tutorial on how to do just that. Jennifer, this one is for you.


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Are you looking for a speaker for your next event? Book me (Sarah Eaton) for your next event (either live or via webinar)! Contact us for details. Follow Dr. Sarah on Twitter.

21 Photos you should never post on social media (especially if you’re looking for a job)

I have been working with a variety of organizations on social media strategies, tactics and plans this year. Part of the learning curve involves getting a handle on exactly what we should post on social media. The flip side is knowing what not to post.

One of the toughest questions relates to photographs. Staff at every level, as well as students and volunteers need to be very, very clear that once their photos are posted on line, they immediately leave a “digital footprint”.

In Vancouver earlier this year there was a riot after the city’s hockey team lost the final game of the 2011 Stanley Cup. Photos posted online have been used to identify those involved in the incident. There’s even a Facebook page called “Vancouver Riot Pics: Post Your Photos” and a similar website that police are reportedly scanning to gather evidence against alleged rioters.

In addition to photos taken of just about anyone, by anyone else, at a public event, pictures can also be copied by just about anyone, saved and then re-shared again via e-mail or other postings. Oh yeah, and in between the point when they are saved and re-distributed, they can also be Photoshopped. Think about that for a minute… That means anything you post on line can be saved by someone else and altered in any number of ways beyond your wildest dreams.

Last month, in the United States, the federal government essentially condoned a new start-up company whose core business is to screen prospective employees for companies, by scouring their digital and social media footprints.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t post photos. It just means that you want to be very savvy about what you put out there in cyberspace. Avoid photos that could be considered questionable by prospective employers, program funders or other professional contacts. But what does that mean, exactly? Let me give you some examples of the types of photos (and videos) to avoid:

  1. You, in a swimsuit. Seriously, unless you are a swimsuit model and you’re looking for modelling gigs, leave the beach photos off social media.
  2. You, in your underwear (especially if it’s in a public setting and that’s all you happen to be wearing).
  3. Boudoir shots (Unless you’re a boudoir photographer or a nude model, don’t post these.)
  4. Drunk / tipsy photos.
  5. Photos of you – or anyone – lighting up a reefer or doing any kind of drugs. (See #12).
  6. You leaning over a toilet bowl (or anywhere else) vomiting.
  7. Actually… any photos of bodily functions are best left off social media.
  8. You engaging in frisky behaviour with your boss’s, colleague’s or friend’s significant other.
  9. Smoochy stuff of any kind — unless it’s your own wedding photo, and even then, I’d err on the side of caution.
  10. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” photos – That means, photos of you having a good time, when you should have been at work or school. (Bosses and teachers use Facebook too, you know.)
  11. You with a .49 shotgun, a machine gun, a handgun or any kind of weapon, for that matter. (Again, unless you are a firearms instructor.)
  12. You, engaged in any kind of criminal or illicit activities. (I’m sure the Vancouver riot seemed innocent enough at the time…)
  13. You, acting out your anger or frustrations by walloping your kid with a big ol’ wooden spoon or kicking the dog.
  14. You, taking out your frustrations or loneliness by cutting your wrists, hanging yourself by a noose, or even staging or pretending a suicide attempt. That’s just disturbing. Call the local help line. Don’t post a photo.
  15. You, being arrested, being hauled off in a police car or in jail.
  16. Similarly, you, in a straight jacket, handcuffed or otherwise restrained. Even if it’s part of a Halloween costume, just think what a prospective employer might think when they Google you and see that photo out of context. You won’t get the job.
  17. Photos of your house, that clearly show your address. (Seriously, do you really want to make it that easy for the whole world — and I mean, the whole world — to know where you live?)
  18. Photo renditions (scanned copies) of your driver’s license, passport or other ID. Even if you just got your first ever driver’s license, do not scan it and post it on Facebook. Ever.
  19. Photo renditions (scanned copies) of prescriptions. (Despite what you may believe, your Facebook friends don’t need to know what meds you’re on.)
  20. Photos of other people’s children – taken or posted without their permission. A friend of mine recently found a photo of her daughter posted on a government website. In an attempt to save money, the web designer found photos of cute kids on Google and used them as generic art on the website. (It’s not legal, but it happens). She got the photo removed, but prior to that incident, she had no idea the photo was even on line.
  21. Photos of your friends or loved ones that may compromise their future. (While you may be openly gay, everyone at the recent LGBT party may not be out of the closet.) You can inadvertently jeopardize others’ safety and job prospects by posting inappropriate photos of them.

Think about the repercussions of every single photo you post. The general rule is to keep it clean and professional. If you wouldn’t show it to your boss, your grandma, your favorite teacher AND the local preacher, don’t post it on line. What seems funny today could cost you a job, a contract or a college admission tomorrow.


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Are you looking for a speaker for your next event? Book me (Sarah Eaton) for your next event (either live or via webinar)! Contact us for details. Follow Dr. Sarah on Twitter.