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QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life [Kindle Edition]

John G. Miller
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (523 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $19.95
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

The lack of personal accountability is a problem that has resulted in an epidemic of blame, victim thinking, complaining, and procrastination. No organization—or individual—can successfully compete in the marketplace, achieve goals and objectives, provide outstanding service, engage in exceptional teamwork, or develop people without personal accountability.  

John G. Miller believes that the troubles that plague organizations cannot be solved by pointing fingers and blaming others. Rather, the real solutions are found when each of us recognizes the power of personal accountability. In QBQ! The Question Behind the Question®, Miller explains how negative, ill-focused questions like “Why do we have to go through all this change?” and “Who dropped the ball?” represent a lack of personal accountability. Conversely, when we ask better questions—QBQs—such as “What can I do to contribute?” or “How can I help solve the problem?” our lives and our organizations are transformed.


This remarkable and timely book provides a practical method for putting personal accountability into daily actions, with astonishing results: problems are solved, internal barriers come down, service improves, teams thrive, and people adapt to change more quickly. QBQ! is an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to learn, grow, and change. Using this tool, each of us can add tremendous worth to our organizations and to our lives by eliminating blame, victim-thinking, and procrastination.

QBQ! was written more than a decade ago and has helped countless readers practice personal accountability at work and at home. This version features a new foreword, revisions and new material throughout, and a section of  FAQs that the author has received over the years.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

QBQ! by John G. Miller is a motivational primer aimed at purging the "blame, complaining, and procrastination" from the workplace. Miller believes that one of the hallmarks of today's business culture is a lack of personal accountability; he prescribes the cure in this series of short stories and personal observations drawn from his years of experience running his organizational development firm. His main point is that positive change begins with individuals changing themselves: "Instead of asking, 'When will others walk their talk?' let's walk our talk first." The result is choppy (39 chapters in 115 pages), and at times Miller's advice boils down to truism and cliché. Nevertheless, managers whose workplaces demand remedial, straightforward advice should find a useful tool here. --Harry C. Edwards

From Publishers Weekly

This is a quick but deep book that explores the role of personal accountability in one's work and personal life. In his own work experience, Miller found that many people look for others to blame their problems and conflicts on. He proposes that instead of asking who is to blame for the situation, we should ask, "What can I do to improve the situation?" Only by being able to ask this "question behind the question" can we take ownership of the problem and start working toward a solution. Throughout the book, Miller (who has consulted for major corporations with his firm, QBQ, Inc.) recounts real-world situations—in customer service, retail sales, personal relationships and the corporate boardroom—and the positive and not-so-positive ways they were handled. Each example reinforces the message that personal accountability and ownership of a problem not only leads to a resolution but also lifts people willing to take ownership and action above those looking to play the "blame game." From responsibility, says the author, comes leadership and greater career opportunities. In one's personal life, Miller says, ownership of conflict can also lead to enhanced relationships and greater enjoyment of daily life.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 252 KB
  • Print Length: 157 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0399152334
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons; 1 edition (September 9, 2004)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,477 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great simple book with high impact August 18, 2005
This book was recommended to me by a new friend Rini from BP, and i love it. I read it just in a two hours flight ( i am not a fast reader!), finishing it right when the plane landed, and i kind of feel very motivated and enpowered!

In the simple similar tradition of One Minute Manager, Fish, and other simple to read business book, this one has one great idea about how we should ask questions.

In a nutshell:
1. Begin with "WHAT" or "HOW", and not "Why", "When, or "Who".
2. Contain an "I"
3. Focus on Action.

So, instead of: " When are we going to be more competitive?", use: " What can i do today to be more effective?".
Or, instead of " Who will care as much as I do?", use "How can I communicate better?"

QBQ is a simple powerful technique that will improve the way you see life. John Miller has a whole organisation build into training it.

Even that the way they write is way different, i would like to compare the idea of QBQ as such similar power with One Minute Manager. It's easy to teach, easy to implement, and have great return if people start using it.

So, for 2 hours easy reading that might change your life for the better, you have nothing to lose, get a copy.
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67 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small book, big impact December 6, 2004
After reading a few pages, I'm hooked. This book takes about an hour to read and has a lifelong impact. The title implies exploring other questions based on the original question. However, the real story is about personal accountability in work and life.

Rather than doing what comes naturally for many of us and becoming defensive and pointing fingers, the book changes your mode of thinking from "It's his fault" to "How can I fix this?" For example, in a restaurant, a diner is waiting for his waiter to come to the table. He catches the attention of a waiter who says, "This isn't my table" and walks off. The diner can only hope the waiter went to alert the person who is responsible for his table.

A waiter who uses QBQ thinking would help the diner rather than dodging the table just because it's not his table. Such action has positive results on both the waiter and the customer.

In another story, a cashier pays for the customer's under $3 purchase as her register didn't have enough to provide change. This action resulted in the store getting 100 percent of the customer's business.

The book grabbed me and I applied QBQ thinking the day after reading it. It feels much better to take the QBQ route instead of responding defensively. Check the QBQ site for more examples and details ([...]
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Includes some useful tools for success November 5, 2002
In The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability in Business and in Life, John G. Miller presents an alternative way to look at our problems (or challenges) and encourages us to ask different, but better questions about them.
Miller starts off by illustrating incorrect questions (IQ's). IQ's focus on things or people outside or external to us. Some examples might be "When will he learn to manage better?", "Why can't they see my point-of-view?", "Why can't they hire better workers?". IQ's tend to sap our energy and deflate our spirit.
IQ's do, however, seem to come naturally, perhaps as a result of human nature. Miller often asks groups of people what's the one thing they would like to change in their organizations. The answers always follow the external P's: that is, change the policies, procedures, prices, and other people. "Nobody ever says me." As an example, look at the following questions and see what is the first response that comes to mind.
-A poor subordinate blames the _____.
-A poor executive blames the _____.
-A poor driver blames the _____.
Although these thoughts or questions may be natural, they lead us into blame, complaining, and procrastination. Miller's solution is to discipline our thoughts and to look behind our initial questions to come up with better questions-or, as he terms it, the question behind the question (QBQ).
These are Miller's three guiding principles for better questions or QBQ's. Better questions:
1. "Begin with what or how (not why, when or who)."
2. "Contain I (not they, we, or you)."
3. "Focus on action."
A perfect example of a QBQ is "What can I do right now?" The essence of the QBQ system is that "the answers are in the questions".
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A subtle change in language makes a big difference November 21, 2004
This was a fascinating read because, as other reviewers have said, the change that comes over you when you read this book is gradual but decisive. It is true that a change in the language used often coincides with a change in attitude and action, and it was so with this book.

I found as I read furthur on, I recognized myself in the negative questions or comments posed, and when I thought about what I could say differently to pose the questions or comments usefully rather than complainingly, I had trouble rephrasing them myself, but then said "Aha!" as I read the author's suggestions.

This is almost more of a New Age/ self-help book than a business book in some ways, because it is working to subtly change the way you pose questions to yourself. If you find yourself feeling powerless in any part of your life, I'd recommend this book as a way of taking positive action and taking charge of your reactions to the world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone in business.
Great book to hold yourself accountable for results.
Published 5 days ago by H. Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read!
This is a great book that will challenge you to ask the right questions. If you want to be better, have more success, or just enjoy life more you'll want to ask yourself these... Read more
Published 9 days ago by SaintLuis
5.0 out of 5 stars Life changing
Filled with great short essays that pack a powerful punch! Changed my thought process!
Published 11 days ago by Jennifer S. Echols
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Reminder That It's Our Reaction to Things Counts More Than...
This is an outstanding read and work every moment of time you spend reading it. Basically, this is one of those books that has you look a your reaction to things and not the things... Read more
Published 20 days ago by Jacquelin Sargent
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love it! Great read Pertinent points!
Published 21 days ago by Liz Craig
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressed
I liked the idea of worrying more about personal accountability and less about what you cannot control - others. Read more
Published 24 days ago by TJ Casey
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Quick read with lots of good things to think about.
Published 25 days ago by shc007
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I wish everyone would read this book.
Published 1 month ago by Kimberly Wilmert
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Quick Read
Awesome Quick Read. Makes you look at some of the BAD HABITS we pick up and need to omit from our daily lives. Self accountaibility is a major improvement in everyones life.
Published 1 month ago by Art
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick, easy read.
QBQ was a very good book. Are you asking the right questions in your life? Read the book and find out!
Published 1 month ago by C. Hobbes
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More About the Author

Hello, QBQ! fans - and believers in PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY. If you want to contact me directly, just email!

And visit our main site here:

If you're looking for the newly rewritten QBQ! book, it's here at Amazon. Ignore the "2004" date in the Amazon description text. As long as you get the version with the gold star/burst on the front, you've got the right one! Inside the book it says "2004/2012" - and it is our best version yet.

Follow us on ...

Twitter @QBQGuy
Facebook: theQBQ
LinkedIN: JohnMillerQBQ

Big news!

My wife, Karen, and I (7 kids!) have just written the expanded edition paperback "Parenting the QBQ Way - How to Be an Outstanding Parent and Raise Great Kids Using the Power of Personal Accountability." Good, practical stuff. Just think what can happen when we eliminate Blame, Victim Thinking, and Procrastination from our families! Buy it here at Amazon. Or learn more at:

My newest organizational book is titled "Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional"! Find it here at Amazon or at

And visit our main site here:

I grew up in Ithaca, NY. Father Cornell U. wrestling coach for 26 years and a Christian pastor for 40. Mom was a homemaker. I am a Cornell University grad, 1980. Five years with Cargill as a commodity trader (grain).

Started in the training business selling leadership and sales management training in 1986.

Have lived in UpState NY, MN, MT, MO, MN again, and now CO. Moved to Denver in 1997 after 12 years in Minneapolis. Why? THE WEATHER!

Karen and I have been married since 1980 and have 6 daughters, one son, and three grandchildren.

I keynote meetings/conferences on "Personal Accountability and the QBQ!" Go here:

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