Topics & Tools - May, 2005

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Topics & Tools - Jan 2007

Topics&Tools - April 2007

Topics & Tools - Feb 2008


Alan's Topics and Tools
May 2005


Welcome to the May, 2005 issue of Alan's Topics and Tools. In this issue we'll explore the importance of personal accountability, and we'll look at some ideas for being a more effective coach for your team.

in this issue
  • What Happened to Personal Accountability?
  • Knock 'Em Dead Presentations: Preparation is the Key

  • What Happened to Personal Accountability?

    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:

    1. Begin with "What" or "How" (not "Why," "When," or "Who")
    2. Contain an "I" (not "they," "them," "we," or "you")
    3. 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

    Knock 'Em Dead Presentations: Preparation is the Key

    We've all been there; you have to give a business presentation, and a soon as you stand up the butterflies hit. Will your listeners really believe you know what you're talking about? Will they be interested? What if (horror of horrors!) someone falls asleep?

    The fundamental key to a successful presentation is preparation, and most of us don't devote enough time to getting ready. What are a few key ideas to be sure that you're as prepared as possible? Consider these:

    • Know who your "sponsor" is and what their expectations are. Your sponsor will also be able to fill you in on who your listeners are, and what they'll be looking for.
    • Determine what your objectives are. With the information from your sponsor, you should be able to establish a few clear and simple objectives for your presentation.
    • Prepare your content. Too many presenters decide that they will "wing it," and simply try to speak off the cuff. For most of us, that is a recipe for disaster.
    • After preparing your content, prepare simple and easy to read notes. Always have notes, even if you think you know the material cold! They serve as your safety net.
    • Practice out loud! Many people practice only silently inside their head. When the time comes to deliver the presentation, the words just don't come out the way you visualized.
    • If possible, practice in the room you'll be in, and with the equipment you'll be using. Your comfort level will increase enormously because the surroundings are no longer strange.

    One of the organizations I frequently work with, IWCC Training in Communications, is a leader in the field of business communications. Their web site,, is a great resource for tips on preparing and delivering presentations ("Ten Plus One Tips for Better Speeches"), as well as other forms of business communication.


    Quick Links...

    Question Behind the Question

    IWCC Training in Communications

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