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From Clinical to Managerial: Navigating the BCBA Transition



When you imagined your life as a BCBA, you probably pictured yourself running assessments, working with families, writing behavior plans, and analyzing data. Many of us got into the ABA field because we enjoyed working with kids and wanted to help families. The reality of becoming a BCBA is more of a balance between clinical skills and people management. While your clinical skills are imperative to your role, you're also expected to possess management skills to successfully manage and lead teams of clinicians. Unfortunately, many ABA graduate programs don't offer classes on management, and so you're left to seek out resources on your own. Below are some initial tips and resources that can help you successfully balance the transition from a clinical role to a managerial & leadership role:

  1. Identify the Skills You Need to Develop: Before you can start developing the skills you need to succeed as a people manager and supervisor, you need to identify what those skills are. Some of the most important skills for this role include communication, delegation, time management, conflict resolution, and leadership. Harvard Business Review has a wealth of resources on these topics, which we will explore in more detail below.

  2. Seek Out Training and Professional Development Opportunities: Once you have identified the skills you need to develop, seek out training and professional development opportunities to help you acquire those skills. This may involve taking courses, attending workshops or seminars, or working with a mentor. Many ABA conferences, such as APBA, ABAI, and BABA now offer several continuing education opportunities that can help you expand your skillset.

  3. Leverage Your Clinical Experience: While the skills required for a supervisory role are different from those required for a clinical role, your clinical experience can still be valuable in your new role. For example, your experience working with clients and their families can help you build rapport with your team members and understand their perspective. Your experience designing and implementing behavior intervention plans can also be useful when working with team members to solve problems. If you're interested, you can look further into the Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) literature to take a behavior analytic approach to leadership.

  4. Get Feedback and Be Open to Learning: One of the most important things you can do as a supervisor is to seek feedback from your team members and be open to learning. This can help you identify areas where you need to improve and develop strategies for becoming a more effective leader. Be open to feedback and constructive criticism, and take steps to address areas where you may be falling short.

Harvard Business Review is an excellent resource for BCBAs! Here are some of the most relevant articles and resources:

  1. "Becoming the Boss" by Linda A. Hill: This book provides practical advice and insights for new managers, including strategies for managing your team, building relationships, and developing your leadership skills.

  2. "Managing Yourself: What Great Managers Do" by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall: This article provides insights into what sets great managers apart, including their focus on individual strengths, their ability to create a positive work environment, and their willingness to provide feedback.

  3. "The Best Leaders Are Constant Learners" by Kenneth Mikkelsen and Harold Jarche: This article explores the importance of continuous learning for leaders, and provides practical tips for staying informed and engaged.

  4. "The Feedback Fallacy" by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall: This article challenges some of the conventional wisdom around feedback, and provides a new perspective on how to provide effective feedback that helps people grow and develop.

Transitioning from a clinical background to a manager role requires a willingness to learn and develop new skills. By seeking out training and professional development opportunities, leveraging your clinical experience, and being open to feedback, you can become an effective leader and help your team achieve its goals.

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