I picked up my first Peppermint Mocha of the season and boarded my flight after a fun but exhausting weekend in Raleigh, NC with my sister, niece, and nephew. I’m planning to read just long enough to put myself to sleep and then nap away the flight home to Tampa. Instead, I found myself furiously reading, underlining, and taking notes as I devoured an entire book in one flight.
QBQ: the Question Behind the Question by John G. Miller was the book of choice. Even for me, a lover of business and leadership books this one didn’t sound ‘life-changing’. It came highly recommended (and given to me for free) by a coworker who hasn’t steered my wrong yet though. Twenty-four hours later as I write this I have to say, it IS a life-changer. For your family life, your friendships, your career, and your goals.
I consider myself to be responsible, positive, and self-motivated. However, as I read QBQ I was struck by how a shift in my attitudes and reactions could completely revolutionize my thinking, my attitude, and my outcomes. Then I thought – I’m in! So let me give you a brief overview (and then I hope you’ll rush out and buy yourself a copy and join me).
The concept of QBQ is to stop asking questions that encourage us take on a ‘victim mentality’ and start talking personal responsibility. Instead of asking ‘ why does this happen to me?’, ‘when will my coworkers pull their weight?’, or ‘why does my Dad always act like…’ you start asking QBQ questions. Here are the three guidelines for QBQ questions:
- 1. They begin with what or how (not: why, when, or who)
- 2. They contain an I (not you, they, or we)
- 3. They focus on action (action on my part, that is)
You’re probably curious what’s wrong with why, when, and who questions, right? Well, who questions look for someone to blame. These are scapegoat-seeking questions and what most of us have learned the hard way in our careers is that scapegoating doesn’t help anyone in the long run. When questions lead to procrastination and well, you know. Why questions can go in a positive or a negative direction – but we have to be careful with them. Questions like ‘why does no one work as hard as I do?’ are victim mentality inducing and unproductive. There can be good why questions as we well though (he addresses that).
What are the benefits of adopting this mentality? Stress reduction by focusing on what you can do and change. You never feel out of control because you don’t depend on or place blame on other people. The ‘no excuses’ mentality leads to empowerment and productivity. These lend themselves to a sense of accomplishment. Eliminating procrastination keeps things from ‘piling up’. This forces us to address the ‘little things’ while they’re still little.
As I mentioned I am a self-starter and I keep a pretty positive outlook. In fact, my friends will tell you this is both freakish and annoying to them. The book argues that people who adopt this mentality are happier and healthier and you know what? I think that’s true. I spend very little of my time in ruts or depressed, especially compared to most people in my age group/phase of life (hey, your 20s are hard – especially in this economy). That’s not to say I didn’t have some HUGE takeaways from this book, I did!
Here are a few of the questions I wrote down from the book to start asking myself:
– What can I do to improve the situation?
– How can I support others?
– How can I adapt?
– What can I do to become a more effective listener?
– How can I better understand others?
– How can I achieve with the resources I already have?
– What action can I take to ‘own the situation’?
– What could I have done differently?
– What can I do to develop myself?
– What can I do to show that I care?
– How can I appreciate other people’s gifts and strengths just as they are?
See where this could really work? I immediately read these questions and realized I could grow in leaps in bounds if I started practicing this method of thinking. But I have to teach myself to think this way. I have to teach myself to take ownership, to be personally accountable, and to avoid bad questions. And until this become second nature I have to keep reminding myself over and over of this mindset change.
So far I’ve suckered 3 of my friends into reading and implementing QBQ, and I expect there will be more now that I’m fired up about it. I would love it if some of you would join me and of course, encourage me along the way.