Ep. 392: Check Yourself: Promoting Personal Accountability (with John G. Miller)

The Question Behind the Question

Who should listen: Frankly, this episode is for everyone. We can all benefit from learning how to be personally accountable for aspects of our work, home, and personal lives that we would like to change.

Key idea: I can only change me.

John G. Miller, the author of QBQ!: The Question Behind the Question and this week’s guest on Stay Paid, reports that the #1 problem facing corporate America—according to the people in corporate America—is a lack of personal accountability.

However, after 10 years working with business leaders, the real problem (as John sees it) is that very few people associate the word personal in personal accountability with their own person. Seems that whatever the problem, it’s always someone else’s fault.

For the last 25 years, John has been writing, speaking, and consulting with some of the country’s largest companies to change that.

What you’ll discover

During his interview, John explains the three traps that we all fall victim to at one point or another that stop us from taking personal accountability, but when recognized, can be avoided:

  • Victim thinking and entitlement
  • Blame and finger pointing
  • Procrastination and delaying action while waiting on others

Through examples, John also exposes two prevalent myths about accountability that cause most of the frustration we experience when things go wrong:

  • Accountability is an attribute of teams. (It’s not.)
  • Accountability is something you impose on someone else. (It isn’t.)

Finally, we are provided with a framework that can be applied to all aspects of our lives, including work, home, school, and community, that will aid us in assuming personal accountability:

First, recognize that we can always make better choices.

Second, understand that at the heart of personal accountability is asking, “What can I do?” This is the fundamental “question behind the question” that is at the heart of the QBQ! approach:

  • Ask questions that begin with what or how. Avoid asking questions that include why, when, and who.
  • Ensure your question always contains the pronoun I.
  • The focus of the question should be on action.

Here are a few examples of the framework that demonstrate how you can apply it across multiple facets of your life:

  • Instead of asking, “Who dropped the ball and caused us to miss the deadline?” ask, “What can I do to ensure we don’t miss another deadline?”
  • Instead of asking, “Why are we falling short of our monthly quota?” ask, “How can I enhance my team’s productivity?”
  • Instead of asking, “Why won’t you just listen to me?” ask, “What can I say that will ease the tension in my marriage?”
  • Instead of asking, “When are you going to buckle down and start doing what you need to do?” ask, “How can I improve my child’s school grades?”

What is the difference between accountability and responsibility?

To fully appreciate John’s approach and solution to the many problems posed by a lack of personal accountability, it’s helpful to understand the difference between responsibility with accountability. And while John didn’t address the difference himself, there’s enough in what he does say to extract a distinction he’d likely support:

Accountability comes with accepting your own obligation to change a situation. It’s the stance that gives meaning to “the buck stops here.”  Responsibility, on the other hand, is imposed upon you by someone else, and unlike accountability, responsibility can be shared with others.

Keep this subtle but important distinction between accountability and responsibility in mind the next time you are tempted to be the victim of circumstances beyond your control, blame someone or something else for a problem, or wait for someone else to do their part before taking needed action.

Please enjoy this episode and leave us a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts.

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