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7 Questions with Paul Gavoni
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7 Questions with Paul Gavoni
Name: Dr. Paul Gavoni
Current title: Vice President of Organizational Leadership
Current organisation: Brett DiNovi & Associates
An expert in human performance, coaching, and organizational leadership, Dr. Paul "Paulie" Gavoni is a behavior scientist who has worked in education, human services, and sports for over two decades. In this capacity, he served the needs of children and adults in a variety of positions including: COO, Vice President, Director of School Improvement, Leadership Director, Professor, Assistant Principal, School Turnaround Manager, Clinical Coordinator, Therapist, Trainer, Coach, and Behavior Analyst. As COO at Brett DiNovi International, Dr. Gavoni is passionate about applying Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) strategies to help establish positive and engaging environments across industries to bring out the best in people.
Beyond his work in education and human services, Dr. Gavoni is also a former fighter and highly respected striking coach in combat sports. Coach “Paulie Gloves,” as he is known in the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) community, has trained world champions and UFC vets using technologies rooted in the behavioral sciences. Coach Paulie has been featured in the books Beast: Blood, Struggle, and Dreams at the Heart of Mixed Martial Arts, A Fighter’s Way, and the feature article Ring to Cage: How four former boxers help mold MMA’s finest. He is also an author who has written extensively for online magazines such as Bloody Elbow, Scifighting, Last Word on Sports, and Bloody Elbow where his Fight Science series continues to bring behavior science to MMA.
Known for his authenticity and practical approaches, Dr. Gavoni is a sought-out speaker at a variety Educational, Sport, and Behavior Analytic Conferences. #1 Best-Selling co-author of Behavioral Karma: The 5 Scientific Laws of Life & Leadership; Quick Wins! Accelerating School Transformation through Science, Engagement, and Leadership; Deliberate Coaching: A Toolbox for Accelerating Teacher Performance (#1 Best Seller); and MMA Science: A Training, Coaching, & Belt Ranking Guide (#1 Best-Seller). His current book in development is titled QUICK Responses to Misbehavior for Reducing Misbehavior and Suspensions. Dr. Gavoni is proud to introduce ABA & OBM to a massive audience through his numerous publications.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
It's not about processes. It's about the people. All results require people doing something more, less, or differently.
The biggest challenge is ensuring leadership and management reflect on their own behavior and avoid being solely task oriented and outcome oriented and blaming their people. Understanding that when people are not performing to a standard, it needs to be addressed as a skill deficit (can't do) or a performance deficit (doesn't do). Each requires a drastically different approach. Blaming should never be an option. Adjusting the environment (leaders and managers are part of the performer's environment) to bring out the best in employees is best. This requires having processes of frequent reciprocal feedback to regularly assess climate (shared perception) and culture (shared behavior) to either make clarifications or adjustments as needed.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
A behavior scientist, I've had an interest in developing systems that reduce the effort of employees while producing more valued outcomes. While working in education, I supported teachers with developing and applying these systems in their classroom as if they were the CEO, the students, the employees, and the business result student achievement. I did the same at the school and district level with school and district leaders, and was soon picked up as a COO of a clinic and school for exceptional learners. From there, I met Brett DiNovi who I found has many shared values rooted in helping people live more meaningful and productive personal and professional lives. Shortly after meeting him I joined his organization and we collaborated on a book together (Behavioral Karma: The 5 Scientific Laws of Life & Leadership) to document our approach to leadership and management that is ground in Organizational Behavior Management, or the science of human behavior for making a positive difference.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I prefer to do the "heavy" lifting earlier. Things that I do not necessarily prefer to do or tasks that require an eye for detail. This approach, or what we call the Premack Principle in the science of human behavior, is akin to your parents telling you to eat your vegetables before your dessert. To what you don't like first, and then reward yourself with what you like. It's a very effective approach.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Tell less, ask more. Asking questions has a number of advantages including increasing buy in, increasing problem solving and decision making skills, gathering more information, and reducing prompt dependency (i.e. overreliance on others). Questioning is a pivotal leadership skill!
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Bringing Out the Best in People by Aubrey Daniels opened my eyes to the science of human behavior as applied in organizations. Prior to this book my focus was solely on the performer as opposed to creating an environment that created "want to do" staff as opposed to "have to do" staff and helped them reach their potential.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
You need to focus on emerging leaders. Leadership isn't about title; it's about inspiring discretionary effort in others. Some people have leadership positions but they are only wielding positional power to motivate others through fear of consequences. Once you've identified emerging leaders who produce valued outcomes and are respected by others, you support them through what I call Deliberate Coaching using the 5 basic principles of human behavior that Brett DiNovi and I call the 5 Laws: Helping them to Pinpoint a desired result and the behaviors required to achieve it; helping them to establish SMART Goals and accomplishments as leading indicators of movement towards those goals; helping them to establish a system of Self-Monitoring and Report Out to their direct supervisor or "coach" to increase independence, accountability while initiating a feedback loop; supporting Reciprocal feedback to give them a voice on how they are being coached as a leader; and setting up Pay for Performance based on the accomplishments and the achievement of sub-goals and goals. It should be about hours worked but rather accomplishments produced and goals achieved. There is too much focus on how many hours people work. I'd rather work far less if they are producing the desired outcomes. This rewards efficiency on their part and tends to create happier and more productive employees.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
During the Pandemic, 75% plus of our business was suddenly gone because we support a number of schools, and they shut down. So we needed to pivot rapidly. We never changed our vision or our focus. We just set new goals and relied on the 5 Laws mentioned above to guide us through the turbulent times. Once we set new goals we just increased the frequency of self-monitoring, report out and reciprocal feedback so we could remain agile during evolving conditions. As a result, our organization is thriving where many others, unfortunately, sunk.