Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Question Behind the Question

Just read this little book called The Question Behind the Question by John G. Miller on the flight home last night. Little did I know that I would be tested right off the bat in Spin class this morning. Our Spin room is really nice with a great sound system and a nice big fan which makes it pretty loud in there, especially with all the bikes spinning and the music and fan roaring. The room is shaped like a diamond with the instructor on a raised platform in the point of the diamond. There's a lower level and another raised level in the back of the room, nice huh? I think so. Well, I've rarely ever had a problem with the sound system because I can normally figure things out before class starts. Not too difficult, just hook your iPod up and adjust the sound a little. Not today. Oh, and did I mention that my flight arrived in Chattanooga around 11:30 last night so I didn't get in bed until 12:30 or so.

I show up for class after getting about 4 hours of sleep feeling pretty good about things and very glad to be back. I do NOT like getting subs but I'm really thankful that Misty filled in for me. Anyway, enough rambling, I showed up this morning as usual, about 30 minutes early, to find the microphone not working. I have taught without a microphone but it's been a long time. In fact, I was just bragging to myself how good we have it at our gym because the microphone always work. But, the few times early on in the life of the gym, when the mic didn't work, it was horrible. Our spin room is not designed for teaching without a mic. The speakers are in front of the instructor making it really hard to hear without one. I couldn't get it to work no matter how long I played with it. I tried everything only to find that nothing worked. So, I had a choice to make. How was I going to respond, especially after just reading the QBQ.

The QBQ is a little short read about personal accountability. Something I feel is lacking in our country right now. It's not my fault! I often find myself, and don't think I'm that uncommon in doing so, pointing the finger at someone else, or at least asking the wrong questions. I bet you're asking, "what are the wrong questions", or "what do you mean". Well that's precisely what the QBQ book is all about. When we are faced with situations, are we asking correct or incorrect questions. I had a choice to make this morning, was I going to ask the correct or incorrect questions? Here's what an incorrect question consists of: It begins with "Why" or "When" or "Who". It also contains "They", "Them", "We", or "You". The correct question or correct response in most every circumstance involves sentences that begin with words like "What" or "How" and contain the word "I". Can you see where I'm going with this.

This morning, I had a choice to make. Was I going to blame the mic not working on someone else? Don't laugh. Don't think I haven't before. I've found myself asking things like "Who left the mic on and drained the batteries?" I've also probably (have) said, "Why doesn't this mic work? They just don't know how to use this system". Notice the words in these questions. Do these questions sound familiar to you? I hope not but can honestly say that I find myself asking those type questions sometimes, rarely, but sometimes. haha! But, this morning was different. I found myself asking questions like "What can I do to fix the problem" or "How am I going to teach the class today without a mic" See the difference in the wording? I was taking personal accountability for the mic, even though I wasn't totally responsible for it not working. It is, however, my class and I had to teach. It really felt good not pointing fingers or blaming others. Have you ever experienced anything like this? Have you really ever even considered this? Am I the only one? The correct questions or QBQ's focus on action! It felt good to ask those questions. The result was a very positive atmosphere that worked out just fine. You know what I did? After trying for 30 minutes to get the mic to work without success, I turned one of the bikes on the front row around and taught from there. The front row is in front of the speakers, not behind like the instructors bike, which allowed me to hear how loud the music was and make adjustments as necessary. I was able to keep the music just low enough for us to hear it really well but allow them to hear me at the same time. The mic will get fixed. I could have let it spoil the whole class by placing blame and creating a negative atmosphere but I didn't. The class turned out great in my opinion. If anyone thinks differently that was there, please let me know.

So, give it a try. First of all, what kind of questions are you asking? Take a look at the way you are responding to different circumstances tomorrow. They could be at work with co-workers and managers, at home with your family or wherever you might be, notice what your questions look like. Do they begin with "Why", "When", or "Who" and contain "They", "Them", or "We"? Try to change them to "What" or "How" and contain "I" and remember they always focus on action! Good luck!


  1. Charles, I'm honored! Thank you for believing in my QBQ! book. It's material that can change lives and I'm glad you found QBQ! and are helping others with its message of personal accountability. John G. Miller, author of QBQ!,,

  2. Very nice post, Charles. And good advice to boot.

  3. Wow, I'm honored to have the author of a book respond to my post. I loved the stories about the server, the guy in the wheel chair and the girl at Home Depot. What inspiring folks. Thanks Kala! I thought I would always write about cycling stuff, but it seems I like writing more about life stuff. Again, thanks for stopping by.