MilQBQ! 07-06-051

QBQ!: The Question Behind the Question

Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life



John G. Miller

G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2004, 115 pp., ISBN 0-399-15233-4


Miller is founder of QBQ, an organizational development firm dedicated to personal accountability as a core value.  This is a rewrite of his earlier book, Personal Accountability, the substance of which could easily be contained in an article.  The principles ride on enjoyable real-life stories.


What has happened to personal accountability?  The focus of the book is on changing our habits from asking blame questions to asking responsibility questions.  How can I contribute?


Make better choices by asking better questions.


The following kinds of questions are negative and do not help solve problems:

       Why don't they…?

       Who dropped the ball?

       When is someone going to…?


When we learn to ask personally accountable questions everyone wins.  For example, 'What can I do to make a difference?'


The right thoughts lead to a richer, more fulfilling life.  We have a choice.  And we are accountable for our choices.  Discipline your thoughts to look behind the initial, negative questions to ask better ones. 


"The answers are in the questions. If we ask a better question, we get a better answer." (18) 


Guidelines: (18)

1.  Begin with 'What' or 'How' (not 'Why,' 'When,' or 'Who').

2.  Contain an 'I' (not 'they,' them,' 'we,' or 'you').

3.  Focus on action.

For example: 'What can I do?'


Don't ask 'why?'  For example:

'Why don't others work harder?'

'Why is this happening to me?'

'Why do they make it so difficult for me to do my job?'  (20)

That is all victim thinking. (21)


Instead, ask:

'How can I do my job better today?'

'What can I do to improve the situation?'

'How can I support others?'  (23)


"How can I adapt to the changing world?" (31)


Instead of 'Why don't they communicate better?', try 'How can I better understand you?'  (32)


Asking poor questions contributes to procrastination.  As a client once said, 'Long-range vision and strategic planning are great tools, but we need to get some things done before lunch!'  (34)


Making a difference with what we have is the QBQ way.  "Every organization has imperfect systems and finite resources."  "But thinking too much about what we'd like to have is another cause of procrastination."  "Ironically, succeeding with what we have makes us more likely to get the things we wanted in the first place." (39-40)


"What can I do today to help solve the problem?" (46)


"If you want to win, you have to be good enough to beat the ref." "Who is the 'ref' in your life?  What person or situation beyond your control is standing between you and success?" (54)


"A teammate is someone who can look right through you and still enjoy the view.  Let's appreciate people's gifts and strengths just as they are.  That's the foundation of teamwork." (62)


"Change only comes from the inside, as a result of decisions made by the individual."  "I can only change myself!"  (68)


"Frequently I'll ask a group, 'What's the one ting you would change to improve the effectiveness of your organization?"  'Nobody ever says 'Me!'" (69)


"The easiest thing to spot is gaps of integrity in others."  (74) 


"God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know…it's me!" (79) 


"Modeling is the most powerful of all teachers.  Who's watching you?" (80)


"Action leads us toward solutions.  Inaction at best does nothing and holds us in the past."  (85)


"Action builds confidence, inaction, doubt." (85)


"Humility is the cornerstone of leadership." (95)




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