Build Character: Teaching Accountability to Youth

ioi-book-pageOver five years ago, while still working as a university academic adviser, I started off my career with QBQ, Inc. as the “youth face” of the organization. (Because, well, let’s face it—between my dad and me, who’s going to connect more with Generation Y?) Using my vacation days, I’d travel to share the message of “Personal Accountability and the QBQ!” with teens and college students across the country.

Here is an email I received from a student:

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Accountability: Bringing a “Coach” Into My Life

Pruning - it's a good thing!Pruning – it’s a good thing!

On one of my walks that keep me from becoming a “beached whale” again, I observed this Colorado homeowner doing some serious pruning of a much-too-crowded, old grove of trees. My first thought was, That looks so much better. Wonder why he didn’t do it five years ago?

My second thought was, 1987. 

That year my dad came from Ithaca, NY to visit Karen and me in Brooklyn Center, MN. On the last day of his visit, when I carried his suitcase to the car, I found him standing on our quiet street studying our modest split-level home. After a moment or two of reflection, he said, “You know, son, taking down that big pine tree would really open up your yard and let people see your nice home.”

But I love that tree! I thought.

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Be Outstanding: Choose MORE Risk

snake (2)Photo taken by John Miller in June 2013 three miles out of Fraser, Colorado

When I saw this sign, it occurred to me that it’s risky for snakes in the Rocky Mountains to simply cross a dirt road in search of food—but if they want to survive they’ll have to take that risk. For you and me, there is also some risk in simply living life each day. But if we want to move beyond surviving to thriving, more risk is what we’ll have to choose.

It was February of 1986 and I was leaving a secure salaried job with benefits at Cargill to sell management development systems for an unknown training firm of twelve people. Risky? Well, married with daughters, Kristin, age three, and Tara, eight months, it felt like it. But Karen and I decided I should go for it, so I called my dad to tell him of my career move and this exchange took place:

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Outstanding Organizations: No Denial Allowed

“Complacency is a state of satisfaction combined with an unawareness of potential danger, and it’s often characterized by one word: smug. Outstanding organizations know that “smug” doesn’t work. They understand the need to beat back complacency again and again.” Outstanding! Chapter 43: “Stay Alarmed”

In the late 1980s, early in my career selling management training, a mentor would say this after a client meeting that didn’t go as well as I’d planned: “Remember, just because they deny they have problems doesn’t mean they don’t have any.”

Denial. It’s a dangerous place to live.

Whenever any of us on the QBQ, Inc. team comes in to teach “Personal Accountability and the QBQ!” we always provide a pre-session questionnaire. Here is one of the questions we ask:

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Loving What You Do!

Herson's Funeral Home, Ithaca, NYHersonWagner Funeral Home, Ithaca, NY

While my best friend was grilling sirloins at Ponderosa Steakhouse and after I’d already tried filling “Papa,” “Mama,” and “Teen” baskets at the A&W restaurant in Ithaca, NY, I went down to Herson’s Funeral Home and asked the esteemed Mr. Matthew J. Herson himself for a job.

It was 1976 and he hired me for $3.33 an hour. I was 18 years old and not only did I find my niche, I was in my glory!

For the next four years, I did it all. No, really …

I. Did. It. All.

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3 Powerful Principles of QBQ! Parenting

MillersThe Millers

Kristin, the oldest of our seven children and a member of the QBQ, Inc. team, knowing my “salesy” personality, coined a phrase a decade ago that still makes me chuckle. She said, “Just bump into my dad at any airport and pretend you don’t know him and he’ll give you a free book!”

So, a month ago I landed at her airport in Madison, Wisconsin where she and her two little ones greeted me. She immediately asked, “Do you have a copy of the parenting book on you!?” When I pulled one from my bag, she grabbed it and ran off to give it to a mom she’d just met five minutes earlier!

Like dad, like daughter. Call me proud.

Well, that “Wisconsin Hockey Mom,” Meg Goss, just posted this review of Parenting the QBQ Way (PQW)—and we’re totally honored!

Parenting Advice I Can Actually Use and Put Into Practice!

Since the book came out, Karen and I have been interacting with moms and dads by email, growing our “Parenting the QBQ Way” Facebook page, selling books, and, of course, giving some away. It’s been fun!

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Choices: My Decisions Define My Destination

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I sat next to 24-year-old Rachel on the plane who shared that her dad was a fan of QBQ! Just a complete coincidence—if there are coincidences, that is.

When QBQ! came up and she exclaimed, “Really? Wow, my dad talks about ‘the QBQ’ all the time!” I naturally stayed as humble as possible. I responded, “That’s terrific. Thanks for saying that. I’m honored.”

And, I meant it.

But I wonder if it was really a “coincidence” because it turned out she needed to hear something from me that I needed to hear when I was a twentysomething.

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“Me? Entitled? Definitely!” A Message from Millennial Me

At QBQ, Inc. we are blessed to speak on personal accountability at a time when our world truly needs it. Teaching QBQ! is fun—and relevant. Relevant to the people I work with, and most importantly—relevant to me!

Because guess what? Want to know a secret?

I am entitled.

Or, said correctly, I find myself feeling entitled. Often. Regularly. And it makes me sick.

I am writing this as a “millennial.” I shudder to even use the term, as our generation has been dragged through the mud a bit. As the oldest of the millennials (“millennials” were born 1980-2000; I was born in 1983), I have struggled to identify with much of my generation. However, no matter how I feel about it, I am a millennial.

In the past three days alone, I’ve read two articles about millennials—my narcissistic, entitled, lazy, self-absorbed generation. I’ve read about our lack of professionalism, our inability to hold a decent conversation without checking our smart phones, and our inadequate understanding of or respect for the establishment. And, of course, our sorely entitled attitudes.

As I read these articles, I found myself scoffing. “Oh, those millennials. Aren’t they so cute—self-absorbed, unwilling to work hard and put the time in …” Oh wait … that’s me!

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An Update on “Becca Boo”

In September 2012 we published this QBQ QuickNote after our daughter, Kristin, gave birth to little “Becca Boo”: Perspective: It’s Everything “Becca Boo” Lindeenm 7 1/2 months Well, all these months later I am here to tell you she’s the happiest, most smiling, engaging baby this grandpa has ever seen! And with seven kids, I’ve seen a…

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3 Traits of Accountable People

Character Traits of Accountable People

QBQ! fans know that accountable folks don’t ask Incorrect Questions (IQs) such as:

“Why don’t I ever get a break?”

“When will they communicate better?”

“Who dropped the ball?”

QBQ! believers know that IQs like these lead to Victim Thinking, Procrastination, and Blame. They also know that asking The Question Behind the Question (QBQ) is the way to eliminate these traps. QBQs such as, “What can I do to solve the problem?” and “How can I contribute?” make the difference. This is all good.

But once a person takes QBQ! to heart and begins to practice personal accountability, there are a few outward signs—traits and characteristics—she or he will exhibit. Here are just three:

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