QBQ! The Question Behind the Question
Sometimes when I’m listening to Dave Ramsey’s show as I’m working through my day, one of his listeners will ask him about his reading list or what books he recommends. I’m always looking to expand my own reading list, so I take notes. QBQ! by John G. Miller is one of the many books he’s spoken about on more than one occasion.
QBQ! is about personal accountability. Miller believes that one of the most powerful and effective things we can do to improve our organizations and lives is to stop asking the wrong questions when we encounter a problem. Our questions usually focus outwards and on affixing blame, rather than inwards and on resolving the problem. According to Miller, the easiest way to change that is follow a few simple rules when forming your questions, thus turning them into better Questions Behind the original, and more negative Question (QBQ).
To form a QBQ:
- Begin with “What” or “How” (not “Why,” “When,” or “Who”).
- Contain an “I” (not “they,” “them,” “we,” or “you”).
- Focus on an action.
So instead of asking:
“When is that department going to do it’s job?”
“Why doesn’t he communicate better?”
“Who dropped the ball?”
we should be asking ourselves:
“What solution can I provide?”
“How can I better understand him?”
“What actions can I take to ‘own’ this situation?”
The result moves us away from victim thinking, procrastinating and the cycle of blame. There are always going to be obstacles to success that are outside of our control. We can’t change that. Turning my focus inwards puts the responsibility and power over the situation back on me. Making a solution my goal gives me a course of action I can take, and action is almost always a better choice than inaction.
- Action, even when it leads to mistakes, brings learning and growth. Inaction brings stagnation and atrophy.
- Action leads towards solutions. Inaction at best does nothing and holds us in the past.
- Action requires courage. Inaction often indicates fear.
- Action builds confidence. Inaction, doubt.
Now, if you are longing for a long treatise on the ins and outs of personal responsibility, (waves hand) this is not the book you are looking for. QBQ clocks in at 115 pages, and there’s still plenty of room for notes in the margins. I read it twice in my spare time over one weekend, and I wasn’t skimming. It’d be great for the plane ride between Phoenix Sky Harbor and LAX.
What I’m trying to say is that the book is short.
However, that means it’s easy to return to on a regular basis. QBQ! has a positive and important message and can be applied to most aspects of your daily life. I recommend picking it up.
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