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.

About the same time I met with Ray, another person advised me to not speak on personal accountability because—in her words—“It’s not a topic.” Though I rejected that input, on some level she was right.

Personal Accountability is not a topic! In fact, it’s way more than a topic …

It’s everything.

And therein lies the mistake organizations are making. They’re training on topics such as “customer service,” “management,” “sales technique,” “change,” and “teamwork.” All good stuff, for sure. And, there’s that new movement around “happiness” and “fun” at work. Sorry if this offends, but to borrow a Brian Tracy term, these are “mental candy.” Please, if you’re going to invest precious time and limited training dollars, take it from a guy who’s been in this field since 1986—choose mental protein; choose skills development.

But I digress.

What most organizations are doing wrong is they’re training on this or that, but failing to lay a solid base—a foundation—of personal accountability and individual ownership.

In your opinion, does it make sense to:

  • Teach a manager supervisory skills if she’s still going to play victim by asking, “Why can’t HR find better people?”
  • Teach a customer care rep phone skills if he’s still going to whine and complain in the break room by asking, “When will they pay us more?”
  • Teach the sales team how to close sales if they’re still going to blame the home office, the competition, and their “lousy territory” for poor sales results?
  • Teach employees about “getting “engaged” if they’re still going to procrastinate by asking, “When is someone going to improve this place?”

We at QBQ, Inc. don’t believe any of this makes much sense. Favorite line: If common sense was so common, we wouldn’t be in business!

It’s true that one needs to learn to walk before one can run. Walking is basic, fundamental. It comes before. Just like personal accountability. If we don’t have it instilled as a core value in our organizational culture, we’ll go nowhere fast. But train people first to ask The Question Behind the Questions (QBQ) and all other training will be a far better investment.

So, let’s dialogue …

Is there training happening in your organization and, if so, how effective is it? What, in your opinion, makes training work? What makes it fail?

We want to hear from you! 

Meanwhile, enjoy this video of QBQ! clients discussing “Personal Accountability & the QBQ!” training!

*Tutorial on QBQ!

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15 Responses

  1. John,

    I have assited facilitating many Manager level training classes and been part of many others. You completely hit the nail on the head. Without instilling the foundation of Personal Accontability the classes lose their meaning the minute the Managers walk out the door.

    I know I would have approached these classes with a totally different mind set had I read QBQ first.

    Thank You

    Tom

    t

  2. The trainer must be accountable in his/her design. It starts there. The objectives must be written and communicated clearly. There must be a way devised to measure the amount of success in the performance of the trainees, and an ongoing cybernetics element incorporated into the training design so that substandard performance can be addressed in future training where appropriate.

    Thanks
    Bill

  3. Like you said John, with your chosen career, you (and QBQ, INC) will never be out of work. While it’s true that one must learn to walk before being able to run, I believe there is a more basic foundation element. One must first learn how to stand up. Otherwise it’s a future of crawling and graveling. My motto is, “Stand UP (and be accountable)”, then you will have the potential of successfully walking or running anywhere you desire. As for what makes training work, “personal accountability” — on the part of both the trainer and the trainee. Sounds simple, but it’s not. The missing piece, in my opinion, is constant reinforcement. Another way of saying, “Walk the Talk.” So John, please keep walking and talking! American Businesses of all size needs it.

  4. About two years ago, Chad Miller from here in Nashville, led QBQ training for our Program and House Parent Staff. Recently, I sat in on a training for new house parents being conducted by our Program Director. When I walked into the room there were 2 copies of QBQ on the table in front of each house parent. How exciting to know, those who will be serving the children of this ministry will be well trained in personal accountability as they seek to pass this skill down to children who have spent their whole lives around victim thinking.

  5. ALL MY LIFE I HAVE HAD IT DRILLED INTO MY HEAD. SO ITS A NOT A NEW WAY OF THINKING. HOWEVER, I BELIEVE ITS A DYING STRATIGY IN RAISING OUR UPCOMING CHILDREN, AND IT WOULD ALWAYS BE BENEFICIAL TO START THERE. I HAVE 11 GRANDCHILDREN AND THE JOB IS ENDLESS, BUT REWARDING. I HEAR FROM YOUNG PARENTS, ITS JUST EASIER TO DO IT MYSELF. TEACHING THE MESSAGE AT AN EARLY AGE, THAT SOMEONE ELSE WILL CLEAN UP WHAT EVER MESS I MAKE. THE PROFF IS IN THE PUDDING——YOU CAN GATHER AT FUNCTIONS, AND SEE AT ONCE, WHICH CHILDREN ARE BEING TAUGHT TO TAKE CARE OF THERE BUSSINESS.AND THEREFORE THEY CARRY INTO THEIR ADULT LIFE THE SAME FEELING THAT ITS SOMEONE ELSES PROBLEM. PARENTS ARE RESPONSIBLE TO START THIS TRAINGING IF THEY DID SO, WE’D HAVE MORE SOLID THINKING ADULTS.

  6. Typically training is designed as ‘one size fits all’. We get a bunch of people in a room, dump imformation on them using a variety of well-meaning techniques and at the end of the class we say “you are trained”. This type of training isn’t bad if the goal is to teach a group of people how to use a step-by-step process to complete a task. However, if you think about it, the desired outcome of most training is to create some type of lasting behavioral change in the participant, and until the participant can demonstrate that behavioral change, you cannot say the training was successful. I believe that in order to accomplish this, you have to connect with the participant via their core values. If you can tap into a persons core values and understand what they mean to that person, you can speak to them in a meaningful way and inspire the behavioral change that is needed. It’s a complicated way to approach training, but when done correctly, is very powerful. One size does not fit all. We need to stop training the masses and talk to individuals.

    1. Adrienne, this is perfectly true: “… until the participant can demonstrate that behavioral change, you cannot say the training was successful.” Thanks so much!

  7. Thanks for a marvelous post! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you are a terrific writer. I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and will often come back. I want to encourage you to continue to write your great posts!

  8. Great thoughts. I will be using this as the foundation for the high school basketball team I coach, as an athletic director, and ministry leader. And as you say in the book, “Personal Accountability starts with me! I also love that the idea is so connected to Biblical Truth. Thanks again for the QBQ approach.

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