Benchmark Business Group

Where Does Accountability Start?

September 12, 2017

QBQ - The Question Behind the Question by John G. Miller

Accountability; an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one's actions or outcome.

Asking ourselves the right questions and making the right decisions is the focus of another favorite book of ours, QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, by John G. Miller. He challenges us to eliminate complaining, blame and procrastination, and begin asking solution-based questions. Instead of asking who is to blame for a situation, we should ask, "What can I do to improve the situation?" Only when we are able to ask this "question behind the question" can we take ownership of a problem and start focusing on a solution.
When business owners, managers and employees start asking the right questions and taking personal accountability, a culture of personal ownership of results is created. Problems get solved, decisions aren't delayed, employees are empowered, and progress happens. QBQ! gives us direction on how to ask ourselves better questions for increased personal accountability, no matter if you are a CEO, manager, or receptionist.
Many business owners have stated accountability seems to be decreasing in the workplace. What they have noticed increasing is people passing blame, giving up, or doing nothing until the manager tells them to. Being accountable takes time, commitment, and investment of ones' self to be solutions focused - that isn't always easy. 

Having someone else to blame, taking on the role of a victim, or letting others solve a situation is much easier. However, if we pass accountability to someone else, and then they pass accountability to another, and it goes to another, and then another, then another, it might just keep getting passed until it comes back to us! Accountability would keep circling, keep moving, but nothing would get done. However, if one person took accountability the circle would stop. So, then, how do we stop this accountability shifting, become personally accountable, and step forward to be accountable for solutions? It starts by asking ourselves the right questions.
Below is a summary of the guidelines in QBQ! on how to ask ourselves better questions so that we take personal accountability and make better choices.
QBQ Guidelines for asking Questions
Remove "Why," "When," or "Who" 
  • "Why can't the sales team follow our processes?"
  • "When is my manager going to give me the resources I need for this project?"
  • "Who made this mistake?"

When we ask these questions and other questions that include "Why," "When," or "Who," we are creating a victim mentality. Phrasing questions this way makes it seem as if we have no control. Then, when control is gone, stress increases within us. These questions feed into the victim mindset, and being a victim is stressful. However, if we choose to ask ourselves different questions that give us back control, we are choosing to have less stress. And yes, stress is a choice. These questions also pass blame to someone or someplace else. They build on the never ending circle of accountability shifting and, therefore, become the perfect procrastination questions.


Add "How" or "What" 
  • "How can I work better with the sales team?"
  • "What can I accomplish with the resources I have?"
These questions force us to take ownership of the situation. They make us take accountability to solve problems. They end the endless circle of accountability shifting - making the buck stop here! When these types of questions are asked, we commit to the situation even if we didn't cause it. These questions give us the power and control to make things better.
Always Include "I"
As stated in John's book, "Personal accountability does NOT begin with you. It begins with me." Glance again at the questions in the previous two sections. You will notice the second set of questions that take ownership and take personal accountability have "I" in them. The first set of questions are pointing fingers and feeding to the accountability shift. When asking the right questions, and including "I", there is a commitment made and ownership is taking place.
Focus on Action
Without the action added to ask the right question, there is no result. We would end up with "How I" or "What I". So when taking personal accountability, the action is needed to make the change, or achieve the result. The action is moving forward even if mistakes are made. Action means taking a risk and putting yourself out there. John mentions doing nothing is a bigger risk.
Our Thoughts
When John's guidelines are implemented, we give ourselves the choice beyond "I can't" or "I have to" and make a personal commitment to stop complaining, blaming and procrastinating. It's asking ourselves the right question, the question behind the question. It's a different thought process. It's making the change to be more personally accountable and make a difference.
QBQ! is a book for all people in business and reminds us that no matter our position or title, we are all leaders and can make decisions that will impact the business where we work. Our challenge to you this week is to read one of our favorite books, QBQ, The Question Behind The Question. And ask yourself these personal accountability questions: 
  • "What can I do today to be more personally accountable?"
  • "How can I empower my team tomorrow to be more accountable?"

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