Question behind the question

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Dawn Altmaier
  • 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron First Sergeant
I recently read a book by John Miller entitled "QBQ! The Question Behind the Question." In a mere 115 pages, the book addresses what people need to ask themselves in order to eliminate blame, complaining and procrastination. This is a novel concept given all the reality television shows that thrive on finger pointing and leaving something for someone else to do. However, the book tells us that if we dig deep and ask the right questions, we change our perspective, thereby improving our productivity.

It is human nature for us to react to stress or conflict in a negative fashion. We see it every day from the kids on the playground to bosses sitting around the conference room table.

According to Miller however, these initial reactions bring about incorrect questions. He suggests that if we discipline our thoughts to look past our initial reactions, we will ask questions that lead to productive answers. Have I lost you yet? Here is an example, have you heard something close to any of the following statements?

· "When is that section going to do its job right?"
· "If only they had better communication."
· "Why is the Air Force always changing?"
· "I can't do my job because nobody trained me."

These statements may not seem like much, but they all have an underlying lack of personal responsibility or accountability. We know one of our core values is 'Excellence in All We Do.' But, if we're pointing the finger and laying down blame, we are not taking personal accountability of the situations around us and we are not excelling at much more than finding a scapegoat on whom to lay our faults.

To step away from these negative responses, Miller suggests we begin our questions with "what" or "how" instead of "why," "when" or "who." Our questions should contain an "I" instead of "they," "them," "we" or "you." Finally, your question should focus on action. So your question or statement might look like the following:

· "What can I do to help that section?"
· "How can I improve communication?"
· "What can I do to facilitate changes?"
· "How can I be more effective today?"

Imagine the possibilities if we all stopped procrastinating, stopped blaming and stopped complaining. We could accomplish so much if we stopped focusing on "They messed up!" and started focusing on "How can I fix it?"

It is time to make a change in ourselves because we can't force change in others. Be the catalyst of change in your work center. Step away from the gossip ring, sewing circle or water cooler and look for ways to improve those situations that cause stress and resentment. If you change your perspective and accept personal accountability, others will do the same. Ask yourself what you can do to improve a situation, serve someone else or be more productive. By asking these types of questions, you generate productive ideas and problem solving solutions you may have never considered.

Here are my questions for today: "How can I serve you? What can I do to improve my leadership skills? What can I do to show I care?"

Now it is your turn. Ready, set, go!