John Miller is the author of QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, Flipping the Switch, and the upcoming Outstanding! … 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional” John’s books and ideas are terrific and used by businesses worldwide. John is a longtime friend and lives in the metro Denver area. I first learned about John and his work from appearing on programs with him. One of the things I instantly liked about John is his focus on radical responsibility: he believes in personal and organizational accountability and makes these concepts easy to understand and easy to apply. Blamers and whiners won’t like what John has to say—but they need to hear it.
You and I speak on different topics but share an underlying theme about personal responsibility. Tell us about QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, your bestselling book.
My career in the training and speaking industry began in 1986 when I started selling management, sales, and leadership training to executives. I would then facilitate these sessions, and I began to hear what I would later come to call Incorrect Questions. These are questions like, “Why do we have to go through all this change?” “Who dropped the ball?” and “When is someone going to train me?” When I heard these, I thought, there’s got to be a better question! So in 1994 I coined the phrase The Question Behind the Question (the market shortened it for me to “QBQ”!) and I went out and taught my client groups to instead ask, “How can I adapt to the changing world?” “What can I do to solve the problem?” and “How can I develop myself?” Well, it stuck—clients were actually using the material. It enabled them, in a practical way, to put personal accountability into action. As the content deepened, I realized that organizations benefited from the QBQ! message. QBQ! was helping them know how to eliminate three common traps: Blame, Victim Thinking, and Procrastination. So I went around the country speaking on personal accountability and became known as The Accountability Guy. Then, one day, a client said I should write a book, so I did—QBQ! And later came Flipping the Switch, which takes QBQ! to the next level, and now Outstanding! will be out in January 2010.
Given the number of people who seem to refuse to be accountable, what can someone who is committed to doing the right and responsible thing do to influence their environment?
Each of us has a choice, we can let the environment influence us—and then we wind up blaming the world around us—or we can do the influencing. In the QBQ! book we teach that “modeling is the most powerful of all teachers”— so we all have the opportunity to demonstrate for others what accountability and responsibility look like. Managers can model it for their staff; parents for their children; coaches for their athletes; pastors for their churches; teachers for their students. Friends can show to friends what personal accountability looks like, too, by using The Question Behind the Question methodology taught in QBQ! and Flipping the Switch. When we stop our own blaming and whining, we make the world around us a better place. Nothing wrong with that!
It is easy to focus on what’s wrong and not working. But what’s right with America today? What’s right in business?
It’s true, there are some ill winds blowing in our country today. Those winds include entitlement thinking, finger-pointing and blaming, and being a victim. People who make $50,000/year went out and bought a half-million dollar home, and when they could no longer pay the mortgage, they blamed everyone from Uncle Joe’s bad advice to Congress’ shenanigans to Wall Street greed to their mortgage company’s lending practices! Sometimes I want to scream WHERE IS THE PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY!? But, the truth is, millions of people in our great country still believe that the accountable path is the higher road and the one to be taken. People in service positions, management roles, and on the frontline still intrinsically understand that we reap what we sow and always will. So it’s still easy to find acts of service and accountability wherever you go. It’s just that the negative examples stand out so much more than the positive ones!
What advice would you give parents about teaching personal accountability to their children?
Right back to modeling—it is the most powerful of all teachers. If I want my child to learn to manage money well—am I out of debt? If I want my kids to speak kindly—do I? If I want my child to always tell the truth—is that a habit of mine that they can witness? The behavior of children comes back to how they were parented. It’s just that simple. The problem is, too often parents blame Hollywood, schools, churches, and each other for how their kids turn out. It’s all about personal accountability … it’s just as simple as that.
Give me an example of a public figure that “gets it” and exemplifies what you advocate in your books and speeches?
Any person who stands up and tells the truth, admits the mistake, takes ownership for an outcome—these are the people I admire. Sadly, with public people, be they sports celebrities who get caught doing drugs or verbally beating up an official on the sidelines, or a singer who steals the microphone from an unsuspecting young talented award winner, politicians who cheat on their spouse, or executives who drive a company into the ground—excuses are the norm … 99% of the time. Finding a public figure that is willing to demonstrate PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY is one of the hardest things to do. I prefer to talk about Jacob, the Rock Bottom restaurant server who went out of his way to serve me (Chapter One of QBQ!) and people like him in Flipping the Switch and Outstanding!—for they truly are the backbone of this nation. They are the real heroes. Our public personalities could learn a thing or two from them!