Develop Personal Accountability With “QBQ” By John G. Miller Book Summary

Last Updated: October 31, 2023 | by Paul Harstrom

Author John G. Miller has a powerful message: stop complaining and start taking responsibility for your actions. In a situation where people often point fingers and make excuses, Miller introduces the idea of personal accountability

Keep reading until the end to develop personal accountability in your character with this informative book summary of “QBQ, the Question Behind the Question.”

When you ask QBQs, you shift from being a victim to being in control. You become empowered to improve your life and contribute to your company’s success. Miller illustrates his ideas with examples and uplifting stories from his own experiences.

In a crowded self-help genre, Miller’s theory is straightforward but effective. It’s like an appetizer rather than a full meal. If you’re looking for quick, practical self-improvement advice and don’t mind some tough love, this book is valuable.

What Is Personal Accountability?

As discussed in John G. Miller’s book “QBQ! The Question Behind the Question,” personal accountability is the concept of taking full responsibility for one’s actions, decisions, and outcomes. 

QBQ - The Question Behind the Question Book Summary

It involves recognizing that you are in control of your responses and choices in any given situation. 

Instead of blaming external factors, circumstances, or others for problems or failures, personal accountability encourages individuals to ask themselves how to improve the situation.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know—it’s me!”

John G. Miller, QBQ

The book QBQ promotes the idea that personal accountability begins with framing our questions. 

It encourages individuals to shift from asking negative or blame-focused questions, such as “Why” or “Who,” to more constructive questions that start with “What” or “How.” 

These questions include “I,” emphasizing personal responsibility and promoting problem-solving and proactive action.

“I saw the angel in the marble and chiseled until I set it free. —Michelangelo”

By practicing personal accountability, individuals can become more effective, resilient, and self-reliant, improving relationships and a greater sense of control and empowerment.

Also, read 5 Key Takeaways from The Oz Principle Book

Building Personal Accountability With “QBQ” Book Summary:

In today’s world, personal accountability can seem like a rare commodity. People often deflect responsibility, blaming external circumstances for their problems. The prevailing attitude is one of resignation, where individuals accept their predicaments as unchangeable. 

However, the concept of personal accountability, as advocated in John G. Miller’s book “QBQ! The Question Behind the Question,” offers a refreshing and practical approach to personal and professional growth.

John G Miller Author of The Question Behind the Question (QBQ)

What Is QBQ?

At the heart of the QBQ philosophy is the transformation of our questions. 

Rather than dwelling on “Why is this happening to me?” – a question that often leads to victimhood and finger-pointing – the book encourages asking, “What can I do to improve this situation?” 

These questions, known as QBQs, empower individuals to take control and responsibility for their actions and decisions.

Also, read 5 Scientifically Proven Ways To Motivate and Engage Employees

How Does The QBQ Method Work?

You assert ownership over your circumstances when you start incorporating “I” into your questions. It’s a simple linguistic shift that has profound implications. 

Suddenly, things that appeared insurmountable become opportunities for positive change. Instead of focusing solely on obstacles and limitations, the emphasis turns to solutions and possibilities.

The QBQ method isn’t just about asking better questions; it’s about taking immediate and consistent action. By consistently practicing personal accountability, individuals improve their lives and set an example for those around them. 

Leaders, in particular, benefit from the QBQ approach, as it fosters a culture of responsibility and positive contribution within their teams.

“QBQ! The Question Behind the Question” presents a robust framework for building personal accountability. By shifting your questions, taking ownership, and consistently applying these principles, you can transform your life and become a leader who inspires others.

Ask More Personally Accountable Questions (QBQs) And Avoid IQs:

When something goes wrong, people often ask questions that can lead to blame and negativity. These are called “IQs” (Incorrect Questions). For example, questions like “Why is this happening to me?” or “When will someone fix this?” are IQs.

On the other hand, there’s a better way to handle problems, and it’s called “QBQ” (Question Behind the Question). Instead of asking blame-focused questions, QBQs start with “what” or “how.” 

For instance, “What can I do to improve this?” or “How can I work with what I have?” QBQs are more positive and empower you to take control and find solutions.

By asking QBQs, or ‘the question behind the question,’ you change your mindset from feeling like a victim to feeling in charge and capable. It’s like the difference between complaining about a problem and taking action to solve it.

So, the main idea is to shift from asking negative questions (IQs) to asking positive, action-oriented questions (QBQs) when you face challenges. This change in thinking can help you become more responsible, make better choices, and lead a more satisfying life.

Also, read a book review of how to be a great boss.

You Are Accountable For Your Own Choices:

People have the power to shape their thought processes. Opting for constructive thoughts paves the way to a more fulfilling and enriched life

Acknowledging that you hold the reins to your decisions is the first step. Taking it further involves embracing the idea that you have the freedom to make better choices.

John G. Miller QBQ, The Question Behind the Question

The core principle of the QBQ is that we’re answerable for our choices and have the liberty to opt for better ones. You can exercise control over your thought patterns, rejecting IQs in favor of QBQs. Asking improved questions invariably leads to better answers. 

“Stress is a choice.” John G. Miller, QBQ

Refuse to let stress be an option in your life. While challenging situations arise, your reaction to harmful stimuli is a choice. You can respond with anger or anxiety, but these choices will only amplify your stress levels.

Click here to read Emotional Intelligence in Leadership to deal with challenging situations.

The Three Principles To Ask QBQs:

Here are three fundamental principles for asking the Question Behind the Question (QBQ):

  • When seeking answers, begin your questions with “What” or “How.” Avoid “Why,” “When,” or “Who” because these often lead to blame or inaction.
  • Use “I” in your questions to focus on yourself, Not ‘They,’ ‘Them,’ ‘We,’ or ‘You’ as Personal accountability is the key. 
  • QBQs are action-oriented. Concentrate on what steps you can take to address a situation or solve a problem.

Let us see How John G. Miller has addressed these principles in his book.

First Principle:

To begin the Question Behind the Question (Book QBQ), always use “What” or “How” in your questions, not “Why.” “Why” questions tend to make you feel powerless and like a victim, which doesn’t lead to solutions.

Questions starting with “When” often lead to procrastination, as they can delay finding an answer or taking action. 

For instance, “When will my boss get back to me?” can make you wait for external answers. Instead, ask, “How can I solve this problem with what I have on hand?” to focus on your capabilities and resources.

“Procrastination also increases stress. As things pile up, we begin to feel overwhelmed, which takes the joy out of our work. Bottom line: Procrastination is costly to all involved.”

John G. Miller, QBQ – Book Summary of QBQ by John G. Miller

Questions beginning with “Who” are often about finding someone to blame, which doesn’t lead to solutions. For example, “Who forgot to mail the proposal?” looks for a scapegoat. Instead, focus on collaboration and creativity to solve problems.

Instead of dwelling on what’s missing or what you lack, identify what you do have and work with that. You can succeed “within the box” by using the resources available to you.

In sales and many other areas, it’s not about finding a “magic” solution but about working hard, connecting with prospects, providing value, and following up effectively. Don’t constantly chase new methods; instead, practice the fundamentals.

Read here: 7 Reasons Why Employees Are a Company’s Valuable Assets Not Liabilities.

Thinking about “us” versus “them” within an organization creates divisions and hinders cooperation. Remember that everyone in the company is on the same team working toward the same goals.

“Learning is really about translating knowing what to do into doing what we know.”

John G. Miller, QBQ
QBQ by John G. Miller Book Summary

Second Principle:

When asking questions that lead to personal accountability, always use the word “I” instead of “they,” “them,” “we,” or “you.” This highlights that you are responsible for your actions and choices. 

It directs your focus inward, emphasizing that you can only control yourself, your thoughts, and your actions.

Many people, including managers, believe it’s their responsibility to change others, driven by good intentions. However, the real power for change lies within each person. 

Many suggestions may arise when you ask a group how to improve an organization. Still, the most genuine response is, “I would change myself to make our organization run better.” This underscores the idea that personal change is the most effective catalyst for positive organizational change.

“How much better things would be if we all tried to mold and shape our own thoughts and actions rather than those of others.”

John G. Miller, QBQ

Integrity means aligning your actions with your words. To build and strengthen your integrity, ask the Question Behind the Question: “How can I practice the principles I believe in?” This question encourages you to live by the values and principles you endorse, demonstrating genuine integrity.

It’s all about focusing on “I” to drive personal growth and positive change.

Third Principle:

The third fundamental principle of the QBQ is all about taking action. When using the QBQ approach, your questions should contain strong action-oriented verbs like:

  • Make
  • Achieve
  • Build

Taking action empowers you to get things done effectively and helps you reach your goals.

Action vs Inaction:

  • Action promotes learning and personal growth, while inaction leads to stagnation and regression.
  • Action leads to finding solutions, whereas inaction maintains the status quo.
  • Action is fueled by courage, while inaction is often a product of fear.
  • Taking action boosts your self-confidence, whereas inaction fosters doubt.

“Action, even when it leads to mistakes, brings learning and growth. Inaction brings stagnation and atrophy.”

John G. Miller, QBQ

To illustrate the power of taking action, consider the story of Judy, a cashier at Home Depot. One day, a customer in a hurry only had a $100 bill for a few small items. Instead of making the customer wait for change, Judy used $2.98 from her purse to pay for his purchases. The customer was genuinely surprised and grateful.

The following day, he returned to thank Judy with his father, who owned a sizable construction company. Her exceptional service and quick thinking gained a loyal customer. They secured a significant new account for the Home Depot store. 

This story underscores the significance of individual initiative and how one person can make a substantial impact through their willingness to take action. It demonstrates the value of acting and shaping your thoughts and actions rather than relying on others.

How Do Great Leaders Practice Personal Accountability?

Being a great leader isn’t about your job title, how long you’ve been in a position, or the size of your paycheck. Leadership is about practicing personal accountability, maintaining disciplined thinking, and actively choosing to make a positive impact. 

Your job or status doesn’t limit leadership; anyone can be a good leader. One of the most critical leadership roles is being a parent.

Instead of waiting for others to lead by example, the best leaders start by setting an example themselves. They don’t swoop in to solve every problem but instead empower others to face challenges and find solutions. 

Good leaders support and enable others to achieve their goals. This approach is known as “servant leadership,” where leaders humbly serve others to help them succeed.

“Humility is the cornerstone of leadership.”

John G. Miller, QBQ

Click here to read How LEAD Diligently promotes servant leadership and teaches leaders to think, not just react.

Conclusion of QBQ by John G. Miller:

The principles of personal accountability presented in this book summary of “QBQ! The Question Behind the Question” by John G. Miller offer valuable insights for personal and professional growth. 

Individuals can develop a greater sense of responsibility and take charge of their lives by learning to ask better questions and shifting from blame to ownership. 

The book reminds us that authentic leadership is about making a positive contribution, empowering others, and practicing humility, all of which align with the core values of the QBQ philosophy. 

So, as we wrap up our exploration of “QBQ,” remember to “Ask More Personally Accountable Questions and Avoid IQs,” and you’ll be on your way to becoming a more effective and responsible leader.

Leave a comment below to share your valuable insights!

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What’s the main takeaway from QBQ philosophy?

QBQ-The Question Behind the Question Book Summary

The main takeaway from QBQ is that asking better questions, practicing personal accountability, and taking action is essential to personal and professional growth. It’s about shifting from blame to ownership and positively contributing to your life and organization.

Why is personal accountability important?

Personal accountability is vital because it empowers individuals to take ownership of their actions, make better choices, and contribute positively to their organizations and personal lives.

What are Incorrect Questions (IQs)?

Incorrect Questions, or IQs, often lead to blame, negativity, and inaction. They’re counterproductive questions like “Why me?” or “When will someone else fix this?”

What’s the difference between IQs and QBQs?

IQs focus on assigning blame and external causes, while QBQs start with “what” or “how,” emphasizing personal responsibility and action.

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