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Starting my spring cleaning, I decided to part with some books that I haven’t read or have had for many years. I found an intriguing thin paperback, “QBQ! The Question behind the Question” by John G. Miller, and decided to read it before I donated it to charity. Miller’s advice is as helpful today as when I purchased the book 10 years ago. His suggestions offer keys to success in business and in personal relationships.

The author recommends making a difference and focusing on the resources you have, rather than what you don’t have. For example, people in sales inevitably complain they need more traffic or new customers. Yet if they rely on the fundamentals of getting to work early, contacting prospective customers, sharing their belief in their product and services and follow up, they will be on the road to success.

This reminds me about all the sales and service people I come in contact with who rarely follow up, send thank you notes or check back after a period of time to see how I am. The famous line from the movie, “Jerry McGuire” reminds me about this. Renee Zellweger, who plays Dorothy Boyd, says to Jerry, “You had me at hello.” These sales people have customers…now it’s up to the sales person to satisfy their customers and keep them coming back.  

Similarly, in an association, we often can lament we need new volunteers. Yet, if we can focus on the volunteers we have and try to help them fulfill their needs, we will build more successful chapters. A fulfilled, satisfied member will spread their satisfaction with the association.      

The author recommends asking the question behind the question and begin with “what” or “how” rather than “why”, “when” or “who”. A statement should contain an “I” rather than “we”, “they” or “them”. For example, if you are having a difficult day and find yourself saying, “Why is this happening to me?” or “Why can’t I find good people to work with or volunteer?”, remember “why” questions are not problem solving solutions. “Why” questions are victim thinking. A different tact is to ask yourself, “What can I do to improve the situation?”

Appreciating people’s gifts and strengths just as they are, without thinking you can change someone applies to jobs and personal relationships. Accepting that we can’t change others makes each of us personably accountable. Focusing our energy on what we can do makes us more effective, happier and less frustrated.

Asking yourself, “What can I do to make a difference today?” is action focused. Yes, there are risks in taking action but the alternative is almost never the better choice. Ask someone you know who has made a career change and learn if they are happier today or before they made the change. Action leads us towards solutions. Inaction holds us in the past. Action builds confidence.

I’m sure you hear “Who made the mistake, missed the deadline or dropped the ball?” When people ask these “who” questions they are looking for someone to blame. Miller says there is an epidemic of blame, as organizations and companies pass along blame. More effective is accepting that blame isn’t a problem solver. Practicing personal accountability is far more effective and may break the circle of blame within your organization. Asking “What action can I take to own the situation?” may be more in line with practicing personal accountability. Miller’s insights are good reminders for us all. It also shows me to re-read the books on my shelf and appreciate their value.

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