Byron's Babbles

Lesson of a Pin Oak

Posted in Coaching, Education, Leadership, Learning Organization, Unstructured Collaboration by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 10, 2011

Last year my son, Heath, received a small Pin Oak tree to plant at home as part of a fourth grade project. We planted the little 18″ sprig and it is now a little over five feet tall (see attached picture). Heath is proud of his Pin Oak tree and and has watered it every day, has kept it staked and even put in tree fertilizer stakes for it. Needless to say, it might be the healthiest tree in Indiana.

I know there have been lots of writing using trees as the analogy, but I couldn’t help sharing my son’s reflection. This weekend he was standing next to his tree and he said, “Dad this tree and I are about the same size. I guess I have done a good job of taking care of it. You told me if I did everything right that it would put down good roots, grow fast, and be strong enough to last for my kids to see someday.” Then he made the profound connection. He said, “I guess that is really what you’ve been doing with me, huh?”

This became one of those “Touchpoints” for learning as Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard called them in their book Touchpoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments. As Conant and Norgaard (2011) pointed out, these interruptions (or little conversations) can be both planned and unplanned, but give us the opportunity to lead. For these touchpoints to be effective Conant and Norgaard (2011) posited that leaders must “listen, frame, and advance.”

I did the listening, and Heath had framed the learning perfectly. All that was left was to advance. So we talked about how this nurturing did not just apply to father son, but to any time we are able to help someone, whether it be a classmate, teacher, or anyone who needs our expertise to be lifted up. We discussed how he has the chance to be a role-model and how others can learn from his example.

Finally, I learned from Heath that, “the action truly is in the interaction,” as pointed out by Conant and Norgaard (2011). So let’s all make sure we take time to listen so we can make something of our interactions.

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