I've been working with a client organization recently on personal accountability in the workplace. Personal accountability is a hot topic in management circles these days. It has great applicability in the many organizations emphasizing empowerment, and driving decision making to lower levels.
In learning more about accountability, I've been introduced to the work of John G. Miller. Miller has written a book titled QBQ! The Question behind the Question. His focus is not only personal accountability at work, but also in personal life. I got really excited about Miller's work when I heard him interviewed one day. Everything he said made such great sense, and his examples and ideas were so practical. Practical ideas and applications, what a novel idea!
Anyway, most of us can probably agree that lack of personal accountability is an issue in our society. Examples of people not being willing to take credit for their actions are rampant. We're all very familiar with the woman who sued a fast food chain after spilling hot coffee on herself and suffering burns. We all know that hot coffee is indeed hot, don't we?
Miller believes lack of personal accountability has become a huge issue in the American workplace. Symptoms such as pointing fingers to blame others, complaining, and procrastination are signals that we have a collective problem. His thesis is that no organization (or individual) can compete or achieve goals without personal accountability.
The solution, Miller believes, is in asking better questions. Our first reactions to the situations we encounter are often negative, bringing out what he calls "Incorrect Questions" (IQs). If we can exercise the self discipline to look behind the IQs and ask better ones (QBQs), the questions themselves will lead to better results. The beauty and practicality of Miller's work to me, is that he provides three very simple guidelines for creating a QBQ:
- Begin with "What" or "How" (not "Why," "When," or "Who")
- Contain an "I" (not "they," "them," "we," or "you")
- Focus on action
So, instead of asking a question such as "Why don't they do something?" the question becomes "What can I do?"
To further explore the concepts behind QBQ, I strongly recommend QBQ! The Question behind the Question. It's a quick, entertaining, and practical read. You can also access John Miller's website at http://www.QBQ.com