Quite a few years back, a good friend of mine introduced me to John Miller and his book “QBQ – The Question Behind the Question.” I had the opportunity to hear John speak and have referred to his book off and on through the years. John has built a complete program on this concept and has helped companies exercise more accountability throughout their organizations. Since we work with our clients at Rhythm Systems to get focused, aligned and accountable, I thought it was worth looking back through the book to see if there were some nuggets of wisdom to share.
Here are some of the highlights of the book worth thinking about:
John Miller says that one of the guiding principles of the QBQ is that the answers are in the questions and he offers three simple guidelines to ask better questions:
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.
Examples of these questions would be the following:
“How can I do my job better today?”
“What can I do to improve the situation?”
“How can I support others?”
“What solution can I provide?”
“How can I more creatively reach the customer?”
“What can I do to find the information to make the decision?”
“How can I become a more effective coach?”
“How can I become a better leader?”
We always coach our clients to focus on the issue, not the person. Do not try to find fault with the individual, take responsibility and look for solutions to move the work forward and get your priorities and KPIs back on the right track. When you approach people this way, they feel less attacked and are more willing to step up and work towards a successful outcome. Most individuals when personally attacked will fight right back, or shut down, eliminating the opportunity to collaborate and develop better outcomes. This is human nature and ingrained in our reptile brain through the fight or flight response.
I recently sat in on one of my clients weekly team meetings in which I experienced first hand an extremely high level of personal accountability, even to the point where a few individuals were going back and forth trying to accept responsibility for something that was off track! That is the holy grail of accountability.
John states that “Personal accountability is about each of us holding ourselves accountable for our own thinking and behaviors and the results they produce.” Being a good role model for those around you sets the tone for the expectations in the organization. Working hard to hire “A” players who are self-starters, expert in their field and accept responsibility for their actions and performance is also a good start. People are hard to change. Starting with the best person for the position goes a long way to building a high performance, high achieving company.
Most individuals are coachable if they have the right attitude. If they are not coachable, borrowing from the Southwest Airlines motto, you should instruct them to "Feel free to roam around the country." In other words, if a person struggles with personal accountability and is not coachable, they should probably seek employment elsewhere.
Personal accountability also focuses on action that encourages people to do, make and achieve. We know all too well, we can have great intentions, and great knowledge, but until we take action, nothing happens. Allow your people to act, make mistakes, learn from them and get things done. Empowering your people is a refreshing experience that takes the burden off the leader. Let others tackle the problems and develop the solutions.
So, I leave you with two questions:
1. What can you do to be a better coach and encourage your team to exercise their highest level of personal accountability?
2. Are you demonstrating what personal accountability looks like for your team?
Good luck and please let me know your thoughts. Alan
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