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Business Book Review: QBQ, the Question Behind the Question

Business Book Review:QBQ The Question Behind the QuestionBy Melissa Beck

There’s a stack of books on my night stand. I have some in the self-help genre (I’m a work in progress), some are business or communication books and of course there is also some fiction.

One of my 2017 goals is to read 25 books. This goal will require a quite a bit of self-discipline, like turning off the television, getting off of social media and picking up a book instead. One of the keys to keeping goals on track is accountability, this is where you come in. I’m going to write a summary of the business related books in the hopes that it will inspire me to read the books, and perhaps give you some ideas that can be incorporated into your operations and help with your business. In this installment of our “book club” I’m reviewing QBQ, The Question Behind the Question: What to Really Ask Yourself to Eliminate Blame, Victim Thinking, Complaining, and Procrastination by John G. Miller.

QBQ is a small book, only 137 pages, about personal accountability, a character trait that is lacking in our society. To illustrate this point, think of an occasion where you were dissatisfied with a service based business. When you addressed the issue were you met with solutions or excuses and blame? Employees and business owners who take personal accountability speak and act differently than people locked into the mindset of avoiding personal accountability. This change in mindset begins with the questions we ask ourselves.

Miller says initially and instinctively, when confronted with a difficult situation, people ask themselves these types of “Incorrect Questions” (questions that place blame, make excuses and avoid personal responsibility):

  • “Why do I have to do everything around here?”
  • “Who’s supposed to be covering this area anyway?”
  • “When is management going to (fill in the blank)?”

The question behind the question (QBQ) is “a tool that enables individuals to practice personal accountability by making better choices in the moment.” The QBQ acknowledges that our initial response to situations is usually negative (see the “incorrect questions” above). It focuses on practicing the self-discipline of looking behind our negative first instincts and taking a more positive approach.

The QBQ has these characteristics:

  • Begins with “what” or “how”, instead of  “why” or “When” or “Who”.
  • Contains “I” instead of  “they”, “we”, or “you”
  • Focuses on action

So here’s how it works; Instead of “Why don’t others work harder?” one should ask “How can I do my job better today.” Instead of  “Why is this happening to me?” a better question is “What can I do to improve the situation?”

Important take-homes from the book include:

  • Personal accountability begins with YOU.
  • The only person you have the power to change is YOU.
  • Look for solutions, not scapegoats.
  • When you go through a negative situation ask “What could I have done differently?” and “What can I learn from this?”
  • Let go of what you can’t control.
  • Fix the problem instead of affixing the blame.

There’s a lot of power in this little book and I recommend it to anyone who want’s to learn a better way to deal with conflict in their organization or farm business in a positive manner.

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