Coaching and Correcting: A Focus on Behavior Over Blame

In our industry, the perpetuation of bad habits can be detrimental to quality and reputation. And it can happen quickly. This is why regular coaching and correcting is an integral part of successful teams. But how do we approach coaching and correcting in a way that is both effective and respectful? 

To make it easier to remember the key principles of coaching and correcting, especially focusing on behavior rather than the individual, I've created an acronym: B.E.H.A.V.E.  

Let’s break it down: 

B: Behavior-Focused - Target the behavior, not the person. This makes the feedback less personal and more actionable. Practice using statements like “I noticed…” or “I observed…” versus “You” statements. 

E: Early Intervention - The sooner you address an issue, the easier it is to correct. Providing immediate feedback encourages individuals to stop, engage, and adjust their behavior on the spot. While immediate feedback may not be possible all the time, try to at least address it on the same day. Regular walkthroughs by Quality and Manufacturing management are a great time to engage in coaching and correction, as well as positive praise. 

H: Honest Communication - Be clear and honest about what needs to change, but also be open to dialogue. Link the expected, wanted behavior to an associated procedure or policy, as well as the potential impact from the observed, unwanted behavior. Also, be mindful that the individual may not know what the right behavior is and is only doing what they think is right. 

A: Actionable Feedback - Provide specific steps for improvement. Discuss the policy or procedure, open it up if possible, and allow the individual to ask questions. The main goal here is to support the individual in improving the noted behavior. 

V: Verification - Follow up to ensure that the individual is maintaining the standards. It’s crucial to note here that habits take time to break and re-form. There may be a short window where additional coaching or correction is required. 

E: Encouragement - Positive reinforcement goes a long way in sustaining improved behavior. 

So, what might this look like in the real world? 

B: Behavior-Focused / E: Early Intervention 

Manager: Carrie, can we talk for a moment?  

Carrie: Of course, what's going on? 

Manager: Earlier today, I observed that you didn't follow the correct flow path and walked into the cleanroom through the material airlock.  

H: Honest Communication 

Manager: Part of my job responsibilities are to ensure that everyone follows the expectations of our material and personnel flow SOP. Not following the correct flow path and disinfection steps can negatively affect product quality and potentially lead to costly decontamination procedures. Can you help me understand what happened? 

Carrie: I was running behind schedule and thought it would be quicker that way. I realize now I should have gone through the personnel airlock. 

A: Actionable Feedback / V: Verification 

Manager: I understand time pressures and am happy to discuss how I can support you with improving your time management. I'll be occasionally observing material and personnel flow in the coming days. We'll touch base in a week to see how things are going. Is that okay with you? 

Carrie: Yes, that sounds fair. 

E: Encouragement 

Manager: You’re a valuable member of this team, and I know you can make this adjustment. We all have room for improvement, and this is a learning opportunity. Keep striving for excellence, and don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions. 

Carrie: Thank you for the feedback. I'll make sure to follow the correct flow path moving forward. 

Not all experiences coaching and correcting will go this smoothly, but with practice it will become second nature. By focusing on behavior, we can identify systemic issues that may be contributing to errors or inefficiencies. We can also create a culture that values continuous improvement and understands the human element in achieving quality manufacturing. Timely and proper coaching and correcting have a direct impact on the quality of manufacturing. When operators are clear about what is expected of them and receive constructive, behavior-focused feedback, they are more likely to perform their tasks correctly. This reduces the likelihood of errors, which in turn increases the overall quality of the products being manufactured. 

The act of coaching and correcting is not just about fixing mistakes; it’s about creating an environment where operators can learn and grow. So remember, when it comes to coaching and correcting, just B.E.H.A.V.E! 

 _____________________________________________________________________________________

Sarah Boynton, a Consultant on the Quality Executive Partners team, has extensive experience in the biopharmaceutical/cell and gene therapy space, with a particular focus on cGMP training, human performance/error prevention, downstream processing, and non-conformance investigations. Prior to joining QxP, Sarah worked for Catalent Pharma Solutions, KBI Biopharma, AstraZeneca, MedImmune, and GlaxoSmithKline.

Check out Sarah’s other recent blog: “4 Best Practices for Effective Investigation into Deviations.”

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