Fifteen years ago, author John G. Miller summarized one of the greatest pitfalls to productivity in his book, “QBQ! The Question Behind the Question.”
The book remains popular in management circles today, because it summarizes the need for personal accountability. Miller says that when problems arise, instead of pointing fingers at others and playing the role of victim, we need to ask a simple question: What can I do to make a difference? It is only by looking for solutions, rather than laying blame, that we can best solve problems and be productive.
The concept of personal accountability is nothing new. It’s been the topic of countless books and articles over the years. Just Google “personal accountability” and see for yourself how many results come up.
But if it’s so widely talked and written about, why is it so difficult to practice? Perhaps it’s because of our human proclivity—and the fact that the idea is ingrained in us in today’s society—to play the victim role.
When problems arise, it’s too easy to try and shift the blame elsewhere. When things don’t work out for us, it’s because of factors that are out of our control. We point fingers and make excuses, and nothing is truly resolved to anyone’s satisfaction.
Miller is on target, then, when he suggests simply turning the equation around. Instead of looking elsewhere, look within. What can I do to make a difference? It’s a simple question, but the answer can have profound effects.
For one thing, it’s empowering. By taking responsibility for our actions, we take control of the results. In reality, that makes us more effective. Who wants to be victim of outside forces deciding our fate for us?
At the same time, when we practice personal accountability, it builds trust. Our colleagues know we’ve “got their back.” An atmosphere of trust is a productive atmosphere, and a productive atmosphere produces successful results.
Truly, personal accountability is a "difference maker" in business and in life. Imagine if everyone were to choose to act in an accountable manner, not only for their own actions, but for the overall welfare and benefit of the whole. We would have fewer problems, and more answers.
Are you asking the right question? What can you do to make a difference, today?
Jim Ondrus pioneered the management concept of Leadership Transitioning™. He is president of JA Ondrus, LLC, a Canton, Ohio executive coaching firm.