Accountability: The Power of Our Words

It was 1974 and I was 16. Mesmerized, I stared at the church organ dangling fifteen feet above the sanctuary floor. The church was the Danby Federated Church, seven miles south of Ithaca, NY—built in 1813.

My dad, Pastor Jimmy Miller, had spearheaded a drive to raise funds to refurbish the historic building, restoring it to its 19th-century glory.

Part of the project was the reopening of the original choir loft at the rear of the church. It had been closed decades earlier to be used for Sunday school classes.

church loftDanby Federated Church - Danby, NY. Built: 1813

Several men had rigged a chain and pulley system to hoist the organ from the floor to the loft. I remember how amazing it was to see the massive instrument floating in the air!

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Personal Accountability Makes Training Work!

In April 1995 I was at a coffee shop in Minneapolis with Ray Barton, then president of Great Clips, now Chairman of the Board. I told him I planned to base my speaking career on this tool I’d created called “QBQ! The Question Behind the Question.” His response?

“John, if you’re going to teach QBQ and its message of personal accountability, you’ll always have work.”

Ray spoke wisdom. Eighteen years later, it’s all we do here at QBQ, Inc. Why?

Because PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY is foundational—and solid foundations are always needed.

Have you been to Denver International recently? If you have, maybe you noticed an ongoing construction project. The “light rail” is coming some 20 miles out from Denver and they’re building an airport hotel. The model on the airport terminal floor shows the architect’s vision of an absolutely huge structure. Someday, people will walk through the rail station and sleep in the hotel and not even think about what lies beneath.

But I can show you with this picture I took …

Denver Int'l Airport "light rail" and hotel project

Denver Int’l Airport “light rail” and hotel project

Not very exciting, is it? Nope. But, 110% necessary. No hotel and light rail terminal combo could stand up without a foundation—at least not for long. Most buildings can’t.

Just like people and organizations. Without the proper foundation, we fail and entities fall.

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The Teamwork Secret: Personal Accountability

Former Butler U. basketball coach, Brad Stevens (now head coach of the Boston Celtics), “gets” teamwork.

Do people in your organization?

They might not if you’ve allowed the Great Teamwork Lie into your culture. Do you know what that lie is? Before I share it, here’s an email I received from Cathy in Indiana:

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A QBQ! Reflection: Life is Short … and Good

There are events that cause us to do some serious reflecting, aren’t there?

A gentleman the Millers knew passed away Saturday.

I can’t say he was my “friend,” since I’d only shaken his hand a few times. I do recall him standing in our rec room in May 2008 shooting pool at my 50th birthday party. I really only knew him because my wife, Karen, and his wife are friends—and have the same circle of friends. As often is the case, women have circles that are bigger and wider than their men, so it was through these relationships that Karen and others supported this man and his family during their struggle.

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Leadership in Parenting: Letting Go, Supporting Others

Michael John Miller, at about 3!He was going to be wrestler—just like Dad.

It was 1992 when I called—yes, called—the Resilite mat company to order our own Miller family wrestling mat. I didn’t choose my Cornell colors of red and white, but I did get a big “M” stamped on it.

When it came, all 12’x12’ of it, Karen and I dragged it down to our Plymouth, MN basement—and the grappling began! Michael, our 4-year-old, would tear into me with all his might while Tara, age 7, would referee. I even gave her a whistle to blow.

Mike was going to be great!

It didn’t happen.

Oh, he’s great—but he never wrestled. Well, at age 10 he did go to one formal session after we moved to Denver, but later he complained that the “other boys were sweaty.” He never walked on a mat again.

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Accountability: The Coin of Change

When it comes to handling organizational change, there’s been little change.

While in college a decade ago, Kristin was a bank teller. One day she called home on her break and I asked, “How’s your shift going?”

She lamented: “We’re just buried in change here!”

Being the expert that I am—and her super wise dad—I responded, “That’s typical today; lots of change going on inside organizations.” The ensuing silence was deafening. The daughter then said slowly and clearly to the father, “No … a customer brought in $3,000 in coins and we’re counting it.”

Oh.

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Practicing What I Preach: The Ultimate QBQ!

I missed my flight. There is nothing more frustrating than sprinting through an airport, and though truly no fault of your own, coming smack up against a closed door at your gate.

It has always been ironic to me that we conduct in live, interactive “Personal Accountability and the QBQ!” sessions all around the country, and then head to airports. With airlines. And delays. Hot beds of frustration, anger, and where the worst in people can come out.

Sadly, today was one of those days for me. It all started last night around 11pm when my airline cancelled my flight home from Louisville to my home in Madison*, WI. After almost 90 minutes on the phone, (83 of those minutes spent listening to advertisements and irritating music), I had a new flight on a different airline at an earlier time. I figured it was a blessing in disguise, getting me home to my children and husband two hours earlier than planned. I went to bed past midnight tired, but glad to have that settled.

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Personal Accountability: My Attitude of Gratitude

Cereal. We all love cereal. There are “kid” cereals and “adult” cereals—and the truth is adults don’t mind a bowl of Fruit Loops or Captain Crunch now and then, do we? Come on, admit it!

But seriously, when it comes to cereal, do we have choices or what?!

You know, I’m not one of those guys who attempts to shame people into feeling thankful for all we have in America—but I do need to be personally accountable and work on me.

The good news is, I actually felt a little guilty today when I was in a grocery store and saw my options.

Overflowing, ever-present abundance!Overflowing, ever-present abundance!

I even thought, Am I thankful for all my choices?!?

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Employee Engagement: It’s All About the Manager

In spite of the continued wave of trendy training, “employee engagement” is not a program.

Yep, you heard it here first. No matter what outside consultants are telling your executives, HR department, and training people, employee engagement is just not a corporate wide, culturally driven initiative.

Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

Then what is it?

It is what good managers do.

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Tend to the Little Things: “Above and Beyond” Service

I’ve engaged in cross-country travel for 17 years, and have spoken in each of our lower 48 states. I’ve stayed in so many hotels, they now sort of all look alike. I’m sure the hotel chain marketing execs who work hard to create “brand loyalty” would cringe at that, but it’s true. Truthfully, I’m not very hard to please. If my room has a bed, TV, running water, and a coffee pot—I am very happy.

But recently, I stayed at the South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island, Florida, and witnessed something I’ve never seen before. This:

Trust me, I didn’t fold them.

Now, the place wasn’t perfect. The room service was limited and an A/C unit in the bathroom ceiling dripped some water that I had to mop up—but I’d go back. Why? Well, the 78 degree temps in January help, but mostly because an unnamed housekeeping person went above and beyond.

When I saw those clothes on my extra bed that day, a gas station back home immediately came to mind.

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