Personal Accountability: A Reader’s Summary of QBQ!

Kimberly, a Community Relations Administrator for Delta Dental of New Jersey, Inc., wrote up this summary of the QBQ! book. It’s so excellent, I thought I’d share it all with you. I love the title she gave it. Enjoy! 

I Can Only Change Me

In John G. Miller’s book QBQ The Question Behind the Question he speaks about what to really ask yourself to eliminate blame, complaining, and procrastination. He discusses how people tend to blame others for personal and professional troubles. Miller believes in personal accountability – taking responsibility for one’s actions, problems, and feelings instead of blaming others.

Miller believes in changing the questions we ask ourselves from negative (Why do we have to go through all this change? Or, Who dropped the ball?) to more solution-based “I” questions (What can I do to contribute? Or, How can I help solve the problem?)

One of the chapters in QBQ! is called “I Can Only Change Me” and in this chapter Miller reminds us that when dealing with any circumstance the only person that can change is – one’s self.

Perhaps you’re a supervisor who’s dealing with a difficult employee. You do your best to change the employee’s attitude and nothing is working. The attitude you should be changing is your own. A supervisor’s role is to coach and counsel – not to change another person. Change is something that occurs internally – a result of decisions made by the individual. The same applies for the reverse – an employee who works for a difficult supervisor. The employee cannot change the supervisor – the only aspect the employee can change is him or herself and how he or she deals with the difficult supervisor.

Each of us may be aware that the only person each of us can change is our self; however, there’s a big difference between understanding this concept and actually living it.

Miller raises the question: Why does it seem the only thing people know how to do anymore is point the finger elsewhere? Blame is everywhere. Here are some examples, as shared by Miller:
– I wanted to buy coffee at a gas station convenience store, but the pot was empty. I told the person behind the counter the coffee pot was empty. He then pointed at a co-worker and said “coffee is her department!”
– On a cross-country flight, the flight attendant got on the intercom and said, “Sorry everyone, but the movie we promised you will not be shown today. Catering put the wrong one on board.”
– While picking up take-out pizza, the pizza place lost our order. Suddenly out of the blue, the man behind the counter says “Hey, don’t blame me, my shift just started!”

Miller says that he’ll ask groups, “What’s the one thing you would change to improve the effectiveness of your organization?” Miller typically receives this list: products, policies, procedures, promotions, people – no one ever says “me!” Our minds, says Miller, simply don’t go there – our thoughts almost always focus externally first.

We say, “I can only change me.” But, Miller says, when asked “Who have you been thinking needs to learn the Question Behind the Question (QBQ) strategies?” We say “they do!”

We often hear things like “It’s not my fault” or “It’s not my job” or “It’s not my problem.” Instead, we should be asking ourselves “How can I do my job better?” or “What can I do to improve this situation?” or “How can I support others?”

QBQ! encourages us to move away from victim-like questions such as “Why don’t others work harder?” or “Why don’t I get more direction from upper management?” or “Why is this happening to me?” to questions that begin with “what” or “how” and contain “I” to bring the focus back to one’s self.

You’ll make better choices in the moment when you start asking yourself better questions.


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