Personal Accountability: Doing My Job

Do you job

I asked Molly, our twentysomething daughter, who has served as captain of soccer and basketball teams, “Molly, in your opinion, what makes an effective team?” I was honestly just curious what she’d say; it wasn’t like I was doing book research! But I loved her answer: “Everyone taking care of their own stuff, Dad. Everybody working hard at doing their job.” I appreciated her thought so much, it went into Outstanding! under the chapter titled, “Work!”

Can you imagine responding to Incorrect Questions (“IQ” vs. “QBQ” tutorial) with Molly’s simple message? A message that is succinctly stated in the photo above, taken by her thirtysomething sister, Kristin, when in New Orleans to speak.

These three words may not seem very “politically correct” to you; maybe they even seem harsh, cold, and callous. But let me paint a picture that might help:

While watching TV, have you ever seen a character—calm, cool, and collected—slap a hysterical character who then responded, “Thanks, I needed that!”

I don’t know about you, but I could benefit from being metaphorically slapped on some days. Here’s how it might go:

“When is someone going to give us the vision?”


“Who made that decision?”


“Why aren’t my people motivated?”


“When will others work as hard as I do?”


“Why don’t they communicate better?”


“Who dropped the ball?”


“When are they going to tell us what’s going on?”


“Why don’t I get a raise, promotion, and more benefits???”


A couple years ago, my wife, Karen, gave me a t-shirt that reads, “It’s All About Me.” Um, it wasn’t a positive marital statement that day.

But it made my think about what we teach here at QBQ, Inc.

You see, I first created “The Question Behind the Question” in 1994 and taught it in its original and very rough form at St. Jude Medical in Minnesota. It was quickly shortened to “QBQ.” When I returned to St. Jude a month later, they were using it. Meaning, they were talking the language and applying the concept to solve problems.

I remember thinking, Wow, I’ve really got something here.

Bluntly, most of what the training industry sells is ineffective—motivational fluff and theoretical stuff—that sounds good in the ballroom or classroom but can’t be implemented when people return to work.

So, in 1994, it seemed that I had hold of a piece of content, in the form of this “QBQ” idea that people were wanting and able to use. I mention that for this reason:

Over the years—in my opinion—the QBQ! message of PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY had clearly gotten deeper, richer, and more meaningful!

But then Karen gave me that t-shirt and I thought …

Huh, that’s QBQ! in a nutshell. No whining, complaining, blaming, procrastinating, or excuse-making. No feeling entitled or deserving. No worrying about what others do or don’t do. Just … 


And the best way for me to do my job?

Asking QBQs such as these:

“How can I excel in my work today?” and “What can I do to be my very best?”

Yep, that t-shirt is right—personal accountability is all about me!

For Comment:

Are there any “IQs” you ask that keep you from doing your job? What’s your take-away from this message and how will you apply it? Please share below!


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16 Responses

  1. What timing! A coworker had just said to me… “To get all this done I’ll have to be here ’til midnight!” I laughed and said, “Better get busy then!”. She laughed and jumped right to the task. Another coworker walking past said, “job security”… then your email popped in! We hear you, John!!! 🙂

  2. Interesting, I can see this in a lot of ways and I do agree that doing your job is a critical part of any’s team success. That siad, how many times has this exact phase been used to pass the buck along and say that “Hey, I was just doing my job” so the end result was not my fault. I was just doing what I was told to do.

  3. What timing! I just came out of a meeting that revealed a heavy work load for the remainder of the month. It won’t be a fun month and there will be some long days, but I just need to remind myself everyday that if I “do my job” and don’t get behind the BMW wheel (Blame, Moan, Whine) and ask lousy questions, it will all get accomplished…..and accomplished well. Thank you for the encouragement on THIS day of the week.

  4. I have used a similar concept in our Fire-Up Meetings involving the popular break-up statement, “It’s not you, it’s me”. Personal accountability is everything! Every Friday my staff takes turns reading the QBQ in our morning Quick Start. Your book and message is changing lives here at LMCU. Thanks!

  5. Get your camera out of my office, John! There was a … we’ll call it an incident.. in my email inbox that was a mental ticking time bomb. Your newsletter clipped the right wire just before the timer counted down to boom. Thanks for saving a life.

  6. This was right on the money. I just returned from a conference last week regarding our agency software and the coworker I attended with told me that “everyone needs to dig in and figure this out and just do it”. Well that is true, but I feel that it is my job to make sure that they have the information and tools available before they can take the responsibility upon themselves.

  7. I teach an Emerging Leader Program for my company, and many of the new leaders are selected from the work group that they were a part of yesterday. The peer-to-leader transition is often one of the most challenging parts of their new job, particularly when they keep slipping back into the “individual contributor” role.
    Their job now is to get the work done through others, while building trust and positive relationships, and to develop their people. How helpful it would be if all new leaders were able to answer the IQ’s – Why aren’t my people accepting my coaching? – with the QBQ’s – How can I help solve the problem? What can I do to help them accept my coaching?
    I also like to add the Golden Rule question – How would I like to be treated if I were in their position? QBQ + Golden Rule = winning combination to help new leaders DO THEIR JOB. Thanks!

  8. John,
    This couldn’t have come at a better time. We are short staffed today–Monday no less–and are all being asked to do even more. Well, time to kick in and “Do your job.” We’re all cross-trained so we can handle it. Thanks for all of your helps and reminders along the way. We must stay ever vigilant to keep greatness going.

  9. This comes at a great time. We are in the process of expanding our business and during meetings, it’s amazing to hear people say “That isn’t my job”. When I try to bring the team back “to center” and focus on resolving issues, they just don’t understand. In some cases, it’s still a 9 to 5 world; but business today is moving fast. Everyone needs to focus on their job and also focus on being a “Business Partner”.

  10. My take away would be, my theme for 2013, focus on my area and don’t interject on other’s unless invited. We wear many hats where I’m at right now and some times, in thinking I’m helping, I would reach over and take some else’s hat and put it on.

    I’ve found by not worrying about the others rolls, and ask, “how can I make this better for them and my area?” my mine is more relaxed and there is no confrontational feelings from me or my team mates!

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