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Book Review - QBQ! and Flipping The Switch by John G Miller

Two recent books by John G. Miller, QBQ! The Question Behind the Question (Putnam 2004), and Flipping the Switch (Putnam 2006), give a refreshing look at personal accountability. Miller is an organizational consultant who teaches people how to take personal responsibility for their performance and hold themselves accountable for personal success, as well as the success of the organizations they work for.

QBQ! relates to the language of accountability. Its purpose is to tell readers “What to really ask yourself, to eliminate blame, complaining, and procrastination.” Miller tells us that when we are frustrated, or when things go wrong, we tend to perpetuate problems by asking “lousy questions,” such as “Why does this happen?” or “When is someone going to fix this?” or “Who dropped the ball?” These questions lead to “victim thinking”. These types of questions do not offer a solution. Better questions lead to better results. Better questions lead to better thinking.

The Question Behind the Question is the better question. Better questions begin with “What” or “How” (not Why, Who, Where, or When). Better questions contain an “I” and focus on constructive action. Examples are “What can I do?” and “What can I contribute?” and “How can I adapt?” The QBQ offers choice and points our thinking in the direction of change. The QBQ allows us to take ownership of our response. It helps us focus on the one person we can change—the self. The ultimate goal is action.

Flipping the Switch takes the QBQ a step further by discussing how the QBQ can be applied to the qualities of personal accountability in learning, ownership of the problem, creativity in thinking, service to others, and building trust. Miller calls these five categories “the Advantage Principles” of life. Asking the QBQ is like flipping the switch that guides us to the actions that demonstrate these principles.

Miller tells his readers how to ask the questions that elicit personal integrity and accountability. He also describes the most common roadblocks that keep people stuck and frustrated. He uses real-life anecdotes about everyday people to show how anyone can easily fall into the traps of blaming, prejudice, excuses, and resentment. Coaches, therapists, business managers, and anyone in a leadership position can appreciate the message.

Both of these short books are enlightening and easy to read. The principles are easy to grasp and the short anecdotes are often touching, even while they illustrate a point. The message offers a strategy for solution-oriented thinking. These two books bring home so clearly the concept that “the answer you get depends on the question you ask.”

Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist, counselor and life coach with a private practice, Motivational Strategies, Inc., in Springfield, Virginia. She specializes in solution-oriented therapies, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Hypnotherapy. She is the executive director of the National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists ( She recently published The Weight, Hypnotherapy, and You Weight Reduction Program: An NLP and Hypnotherapy Practitioner’s Manual released by Crown House Ltd of Wales. Her web site is