Leadership Insights: Interview With John G. Miller of QBQ!


Welcome to another edition of Leadership Insights where I share interviews I have done with other leaders.

Recently, I interviewed John G. Miller, the founder of QBQ! Inc, author of the book QBQ! The Question Behind The Question: Practicing Personal Accountability At Work And In Life (This is an affiliate link. If you click on it and purchase an item, I get a small commission), and professional speaker. If you couldn’t tell by the title of his book, John preaches and lives personal responsibility.

John took valuable time out of his day to answer my questions and the questions of a few readers. Reading through his answers, I was excited to share his insights with you. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the interview as much as I had conducting it.

Q1: Your book, QBQ! The Question Behind The Question, is all about personal accountability. How does the concept of personal accountability relate to the role of a leader?

John G. Miller: Personal accountability is prerequisite for being a leader! How can I lead others if I am pointing fingers, blaming, whining, procrastinating, and playing victim? I cannot. In QBQ!, we define leadership as the “moment by moment disciplining of my thinking” and that’s what leaders do: They shape, control, and work to enhance the way they think. And the healthier the thinking, the more apt we are to demonstrate accountability to those around us.

Q2: What are a few ways a leader can develop or accept more personal accountability?

JGM: Developing it comes from the mental discipline we speak of above—and simply by learning the QBQ! methodology. QBQ! is a tool that enables us to resist the trap of blame and victim thinking by asking QBQs like, “How can I help solve the problem?” and “What can I do to contribute?” That’s leadership! The accepting of accountability—also a learned kill-comes from working into our minds and verbal habits the idea and phrase NO EXCUSES!  This simple but powerful personal “mantra”—when committed to—makes anyone a leader!

Q3: There are large segments of our culture that hasn’t grasped this concept. What can we as leaders do to encourage others to practice personal accountability?

JGM: Two things: Practice it ourselves. As we say in QBQ!, “Modeling is the most powerful of all teachers!” We should never expect others to be accountable—especially our staff or children—when we aren’t! Also, train people. That’s why my firm—QBQ, Inc. —exists. We help organizations train their people to use QBQ! so they can practice personal accountability at work and at home! As we teach in our newest book Parenting the QBQ Way, we say it all begins with mom and dad. And at work, it begins with a manager committing to being accountable and training others to be accountable.

Q4: For those leaders who don’t hold the title of leader, whether in business or other areas of life, how can they stand up and say they’re a leader?

JGM: Saying it doesn’t make it so. Ben Franklin said this about pride: “Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I would probably be proud of my humility.” The essence of effective leadership is humility. In fact, we teach in my book Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional, the best organizations have a streak of humility running right through them—and they demonstrate this t their customers. So I’ve never seen a real leader have to say that they are a leader. As Nike says, JUST DO IT!

Q5: I really liked chapter 37 in QBQ! titled We Buy Too Many Books. How do we translate knowing what to do into doing what we know?

JGM: Well, I could quote Nike again, but I won’t.  This is really about mental conditioning and disciplining of thought. If I know I should stop interrupting people during conversation, then I must override that lifelong desire and developed bad habit with self-talk that enables me to choose to bite my tongue, be patient, count to ten. We can do that which we know to do—if we want to.

Q6: Brandon Gilliand asks: In society today, teenagers… especially guys, are not standing for anything. What do you think about the current state of young leaders and what can be done to solve the problem?

JGM: It needs to be modeled by other “leaders,” like any President of the United states demonstrating a NO EXCUSES! approach to the Oval Office. But then coaches, teachers, and parents, too. Blame and victim thinking are so ingrained into the fabric of our society it’s hard to find a role model anywhere who simply practices personal accountability in all things. Remember, modeling is the most powerful of all teachers!

But also, there’s this: The problem you mention is directly related to poor parenting and the break-up of the family. The loss of strong fathers and strong family values has caused young man to go astray. This is exactly why my wife, Karen, and I just published Parenting the QBQ Way. We need to bring personal responsibility back to the family!

Q7: Brandon Gerrard asks: You shared a great story about a waiter who went above and beyond to serve you a diet Coke. The waiter took on quite a bit of personal accountability to get you your drink. Is there a point where you can go too far, possibly interfering with your job duties or other responsibilities?

JGM: Certainly. That’s why in the same book we have a chapter on “boundaries.” Serving and helping are great things, but we can go too far. Managers should not adopt poor performers. Colleagues should not cover for each other’s mistakes. Parents should not enable their children. There are many gray areas here, but suffice it to say we want to be accountable, we need to own problems—but we can’t own them all!

Question: How are applying personal accountability to your life? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Nice interview, Joe.  I like the focus on practicing accountability.

    • Thanks Dan. John’s an expert on personal accountability and you can see it in his work and personal life. It’s also something sorely lacking in our world today. If only more people could catch the PA train and hop aboard.

  • Love the quote by Franklin.

    Love that he said real leaders don’t have to call themselves that/tell people they are leaders, they just are.
    Reminds of the quote by Margaret Thatcher (who I posted about today): “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

    • His statement was reaffirming to the notion leadership is about taking action and doing what needs to be done, not a title. TC, how do you practice this in your life?

      • I don’t really think of myself as a “leader”, I just do what needs to be done. I try to do the right thing whether anyone is looking or not.
        Just following Christ makes us into leaders.

  • Great interview Joe and way to go on landing it! These are some amazing tips and I just bought the book! 

    • Thanks Kimanzi. John was very gracious in accepting the interview and taking the time to share.

      You should enjoy the book. It’s short but packed full of life-changing wisdom.

      What tip from John did you get the most out of?

  • What a great interview! Holding myself accountable for my different plans/goals is something I need to work on. I plan on reading his book sometime this year! Thanks for doing this interview.

    • Dan, I’m glad you enjoyed it. You should be able to easily fit his book into your schedule, it’s not long and is a quick read. One of the most enjoyable books I’ve read.

  • John’s one of my favorite authors. Glad you got a chance to question him and post it for us.

    • Justin, thanks for commenting. John was great in answering the questions and being a standup guy. He really exudes personal responsibility in his life.

  • Great Interview.  QBQ is a great book.  I really liked question 3 on modeling.  As a new leader in my organization this is very important.  

    • Thanks Brandon. I liked his response to that as well. It all seems to go back to do what you say and others will follow.

  • I keep hearing about how great this book is. Need to hurry up and read it!

    Thanks for sharing your interview. 

    • Do it!

    • Tessa, it’s seriously awesome and, the great part, won’t take you long to read. My copy clocked in at 113 pages filled with larger than normal print.

  • What a great opportunity you had…wow! QBQ is one of those things that should be obvious but isn’t – and John Miller is awesome at driving the message home. I do have to disagree, it isn’t possible to buy too many books!

    • That’s so true Tom. The QBQ method is staring us in the face, why aren’t we grasping it?!?

  • I’ve read the book. It’s a great, quick read book. I live through personal accountability. I don’t blame anyone for the ways things turn out. I make a way. There will always be roadblocks. You can either stay stuck or make you around it. 

    • Awesome Juan. That’s the way life should be lived.

  • Congrats on the interview, Joe! I’ve heard Dan Miller and Dave Ramsey say QBQ is a good book.

    • Thanks Drew. It’s an enjoyable experience to pick the minds of great thought leaders. As for Dan and Dave’s recommendation of the book, I’d have to agree. 

  • Joe and fellow readers Matt McWilliams did a book review on QBQ and will also be interview John Miller, here is the link   http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/book-review-parenting-the-qbq-way-by-john-miller/

    • That’s awesome. I’ll have to try to make the call. Thanks for letting us know about it!

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