Corporate BCBA Interview
Name: Paul Gavoni, Ed.D., BCBA
Title: Chief Operating Officer, Brett DiNovi International
Publish date: 8/11/20
What was your path to becoming a BCBA?
As an MSW, I was the clinical coordinator at an Alternative School. Somebody told me there was a certification course on behavior being given at Behavior Analysis Inc under Dr. Steven Starin that would allow me to pick up some extra work in the evening and on the weekends. At the time, you did not have to obtain your coursework from a University. My first exposure to behavior analysis through the course was an “Aha!” experience, as I quickly realized I now had a conceptual framework that explained how I had been approaching things my whole life. I found the strategies, methods, and procedures I gravitated toward had names and a scientific basis. The basic principles just made sense to me.
What is your favorite part about your work as a BCBA?
I truly love OBM and coaching people through basic behavior principles. I believe that good behavior analysts help people, great behavior analysts help people help themselves, but the best behavior analysts teaching people basic behavioral principles to problem solve and makes decisions in a way that allows them to help themselves and others.
What do you hope those you work with get out of these therapies?
As VP of Brett DiNovi and Associates, it gives me great joy when I see our leaders leading using behavioral principles. Unfortunately, too many folks within the field seem to get what I call “behavioral myopia” when it comes to leading, managing, or working with peers as they forget to problem solve and make decisions through a scientific lens like they would do if they were working directly with a person with disabilities. So, I hope they learn to bring out the best in the folks they are leading or managing using and instilling scientific principles. This has a multiplier effect. As a professional MMA Coach, I love using BST to build skills and then what I call Deliberate Coaching to ensure the transfer of skills learned into the work environment (i.e. the cage). I hope to help my fighters be better observers of their own behavior, the impact of their behavior, and the impact of the environment on their behavior. This awareness helps them learn and perform better as they are able self-monitor and respond accordingly.
Can you tell me a little about ‘Hacking Behavior’ and what that means?
A might be characterized as an appropriate application of ingenuity. A behavior hack, therefore, might be considered a clever approach to applying scientific and lawful principles to achieving positive outcomes.
Can you shed some light onto some of the impact of things you’ve worked on in businesses and school districts?
As a former district behavior analyst, school turnaround manager, assistant principal, and COO of a school and clinic serving students with autism, I always focused on supporting the people around me using OBM principles. Richard Branson put forth a quote that echoes some of my own personal values and approaches. That is “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Using this approach, I was able to turn around a variety of schools struggling with massive behavior problems in a way that led to teacher retention and improved academic achievement. I didn’t focus on the students. I knew that, if we are going to bring out the best in students, we must bring out the best in teachers; and if we are going to bring out the best in the teachers, we must bring out the best in the leaders and other folks who support the teachers. In my eyes, the teachers are the stars of the show, and the rest of us the supporting cast.
You’ve also written a book and you look like you have a huge passion for behavior in coaching. Can we get any highlights from the book – most important things we can learn from it?
I’ve now written two books with two different amazing co-authors and leaders in the field of behavior analysts, Manny Rodriguez and Dr. NIc Weatherly. The first is titled Quick Wins! Accelerating School Transformation through Science, Engagement, and Leadership. Quick Wins is behavioral science for school turnarounds that teaches strategies for team engagement, accelerating turnaround success. It also focuses teaching scientific principles to help leadership build trust, self-efficacy, and performance. Deliberate Coaching: A Toolbox for Accelerating Teacher Performance. Research has been very clear…even the best training isn’t enough to ensure transfer of skills learned in the training environment to the post training environment. This book provides basic principles of behavior and techniques for ensuring skill acquisition and transference of those skills into the school and classroom. There are hundreds of definitions of coaching. This is the first book to ground all definitions with a functional one.
What is your advice for ABA graduate students?
Having theory is not enough. I can’t tell my fighters how to fight and expect they will perform well in the cage. They must have instruction, modeling, lots of rehearsal and feedback, and then be put under conditions where they can safely and successfully apply those skills. So, when they come out, they must understand there will be a learning curve. So, they must continue to learn. An important way to do this is to find a mentor (even after supervision), and recruit lots of feedback. Use supervision as a tool to improve yourself. Use the performance diagnostic checklist to help yourself understand why you might not be performing up to some standard. Remember that all results you are trying to achieve require behavior. That is, you are doing something more, less, or differently. So, you must be able to pinpoint the result you want, and the behaviors required to achieve them. You must have a way to measure progress toward your result and your behavior. You must have a source of feedback (measurement isn’t enough if you can’t observe it), and the results must be reinforcing to you. As such, FIND YOUR NICHE! If you do, you will accelerate your own performance and achievement of short- and long-term goals.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Paul Gavoni, Ed.D., BCBA and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABAprogramsonline.com.