003: Asking Better Questions Can Save Your Marriage

QBQ, the Question Behind the QuestionAsking Better Questions Can Save Your MarriageToday’s guest, John G. Miller is the founder of QBQ, Inc., and New York Times Best Selling author of several books, including QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, Flipping the Switch: Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability Using the QBQ!, Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional!” He and his wife co-wrote  Parenting the QBQ Way, How to be an Outstanding Parent and Raise Great Kids Using the Power of Personal Accountability. as well.

In today’s episode, you’ll catch the fire and energy of John’s message. The value of asking the proper questions, and the motivation for developing true personal responsibility in your corporate, personal and family relationships. You’ll also find out how John handles those “black sheep” in his family, as well as a final, parting piece of advice that will powerfully change your life if you apply it.

32 Minutes

Note from Nick:

Don't miss the Challenge at the end of this post.  I'm going to give away a copy of John's book Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional to 5 listeners who can complete the challenge.  I'll put everyone who participates in a random picker to select the 5 winners!

Ok, back to the show!

Early Life and Discovering the Question Behind the Question

John was born and raised in Ithaca, New York. His first corporate job was with Cargill as a grain trader, buying and selling corn, wheat and soybeans.

Married at the age of 22 in 1980, Cargill transferred the new family to Minnesota, Montana, Missouri, back to Minnesota in five years. John says he came to a conclusion in those five years, “about five years into that corporate experience, I realized something was missing.”

A friend recommended he go into sales. Resisting the suggestion, he says his friend “nailed it. I had found my calling, and a couple months later, I found a position selling leadership and management training, and sales training as well.”

John was loving his new sales job. Making cold calls by phone, meeting execs one-on-one, selling in a workshop setting, and in internal corporate training settings were all a part of John’s corporate sales position.

“I sat in about 10,000 hours of corporate meetings over the next 10 years facilitating training… I didn’t know it at the time, but I was soaking stuff up like a sponge.” By 1994, he realized he was “listening to people ask really bad questions. Like managers asking why can’t we find good people. And, one CEO actually stood in front of his 8 or 9 directors one day, and he was an imposing man… he scared his people. He said, ‘what do you mean you don’t know our mission statement, we’ve had it on the wall for a year.’”

John went on to translate that statement, “What’s wrong with you idiots?”
All the wrong questions.

One day, John realized that business leaders should probably be asking the question behind the question — presenting it first to St. Jude Medical. From there, at the age of 36, John went off on his on from his leadership sales mentor and started his own company, speaking on personal accountability and the QBQ (Question Behind the Question).

Flipping the Switch 

John says his book Flipping the Switch: Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability Using the QBQ!, is pretty much the follow-up and sequel to QBQ! The Question Behind the Question. A third book John recommends is his new Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional! which summarizes ideas and lessons he’s accumulated over almost three decades of training and serving companies across the world.

He stresses the importance of translating knowledge into action. “That is the greatest challenge for all human beings,” John states, “and, it’s also the purpose of training.” John continues to explain that the problem most corporations face today is most companies no longer engage in training, but in education. “If we’re going to invest in training, we need to invest in the process and tools that change behavior.”

In his QBQ book, John provides the definition of learning. “Learning equals change,” he says, “if I have not changed, I have not learned.”

That, he says, is the problem, especially in marriages. “They’ll read a book on marriage and they’ll turn to their wife or husband and say, ‘honey, I’ve changed.’ Well, no, wait a minute. All you’ve done is read. You’ve absorbed some facts, some figures, some themes, some precepts, some tenets, some ideas, but change means I’m going to now change the way I think… I’m going to change the way I feel… and I’m going to change my behaviors.”
“That,” Miller says, “is what QBQ does.”

Building a Great Marriage

11 years into his marriage, John's wife called him, saying, “Johnny, I’m going to marriage counseling you coming?”

He says he went. And, that he continues to meet with a counselor occasionally. “It is very difficult to keep a healthy marriage without neutral facilitation,” he explains. “If you’re having circular arguments where they spiral, when they start out about dinner and end up with us saying, ‘you always,’ ‘you never,’ and then we don't’ speak to each other for two days? I would very much recommend, go find a marriage counselor and get that neutral facilitation going between you, because it really does make a difference.”

John reminds Confessions host, Nick Pavlidis that no one can really make their children, or their employees change. Even if he makes his son take out the garbage, “I haven’t changed his thinking, his emotions, or his will, his voluntary will, his decisions to take the better action. So, the truth is, I can only change me, but people fight hat all the time.”

John warns, “we start to destroy relationships when we try to control, and try to change others.”

Personal Accountability in Marriage

Confessions host, Nick Pavlidis, says his desire is to “get a group of one million individuals to sign up,lock arms and commit to taking personal accountability over improving their relationships.”

John says that part of the personal responsibility is loving what you’re doing. “If I don’t like where I’m working,” he explains, “if I don’t love what I’m doing… I’m going to ask a QBQ, [and that is] what dan I do to develop new skills? How can I move myself forward?”

John points out what he calls a truth in life, “winners fail forward. Victims lie in a quagmire, a slop called entitlement, and pity parties.”

He says the first thing one has to change is our thoughts. “Everything begins and just about ends with the way I think. Let’s take marriage. If I think cynically, meaning I’m doubting my wife intentions. I doubt her sincerity, it’s not skeptical. See, people confuse the term. Skepticism is not cynicism. Cynicism is when I doubt other people’s intentions. If I view my wife or my husband as selfish, then everything they do I will wonder what’s the real motive.”

But, he says, “until I change my view, my thinking of that other person, I’m not going to change my emotions that are engendered by their actions. So the first step to all change — remember, learning equals change — is changing my thinking.”

John then explains what QBQ does in the family dynamic. “Until the minute I stop saying, ‘why is this happening to me?’ and I start asking, ‘what can I do to move forward today?’ Instead of asking, ‘when will that department do its job right,' and I start asking, ‘what can I do to help solve the problem?’… I haven’t changed my thinking.”

“Once the thinking is correct, and I’ve flipped the switch, then I can work on the action I need to take. But,” he says, “as long as I’m wallowing in victim thinking, procrastination and blame, I’m not going to even begin to take the right action… once I’ve changed my thoughts.”

What about Irreconcilable Differences?

John flips the switch and asks Nick a few questions about relationships with “irreconcilable differences.” “Why would that be?”

John then answers his question. “Let’s think about this. My wife is a feeler… I happen to be a thinker. I am highly logical. In fact, I am so logical that I scored a zero on this test we took for feelings, but I didn’t care.”

John told the counselor that he lacked the ability to care, but that his wife lacks his ability to process a situation logically. “I guarantee you that we could have put incompatible on a document long ago, and nobody would have hind-sighted us, because we are that different. So, the only way to make this marriage work, and it does work, and we are in love, and we have seven beautiful kids, three great-grandkids… we’ve made it work because we’ve brought QBQ into this marriage, and each party works on themselves.

Removing Negative Influences

John talks about the effect of his mom dying at the age of 51, when John was almost 17. “A week later, my dad did something that really was all about service.” A year later, he re-married.  15 years later, John’s stepmom “was the picture of controlling. And my father had his own problems.” It was during that time, around 1991, John decided he didn't want to take Christmas gifts to his dad’s home.

“One day, the marriage counselor stepped in, not that she was siding with me, I don’t even think I was in the meeting that day. But, she said, ‘Karen, let it go. It’s a negative input to your life. You do not need to send gifts to the family a thousand miles away back in New York… when the counselor said ‘let it go…’ it really kind of took a negative out of our life.”

John gives another example. “I’ve got a family member who’s an alcoholic. I used to let him call me at one in the morning and keep me on the phone for an hour… 25 years ago, I just woke up one day and I said, ‘I’m done.’ And I stopped taking calls from him. You have got to draw you own boundaries, or else you will go crazy,” John states.

Overcoming Obstacles to Improving

When asked about obstacles to implementing the QBQ method, John relates a story of an event in which his group taped Audio CDs to chairs in the conference room. “So, I talk, and the session was over. And a guy walks up to the guy who hired me, and me, and said, ‘hey, I got two audio CD’s. I won two of them.’”

John explains that the man was given one CD by a certain women sitting nearby. “So, then the boss says to one of his people, ‘where were you sitting?’ So, then he figured it out. “ The woman had just gone through her second divorce.
“She’s angry at the world,” the boss said. John says, “I’ll never forget that. It’s not about being a woman. This person was angry, so hurt. Remember,” he states, “anger’s a secondary emotion. So hurt, that as I was teaching QBQ professional, she was rejecting the message… she just gave it away.”

“If you’re feeling anger out there,” he continues, “you better get to a counselor and get that processed, because until that anger is released, you’re going to pop. And, it’s going to be awfully tough to learn new skills, new ideas, new ways of doing things. Anger blocks learning.”

Final Takeaway

When John is asked his final question by Confessions of a Terrible Husband host, Nick Pavlidis, John recalls how he closes every interview with radio financial guru, Dave Ramsey. “I always say this,” John quips, “no matter what you thought coming into this interview, frustrated with a spouse, angry at a child, that happens. It’s real life. Hurt at work, disillusioned at work, just keep his in mind. I can only hang me. So, stop trying to change your boss. Stop trying to change your people. Stop trying to change your spouse, and your 15-year-old. Get that QBQ thing going. You know the greatest self-improvement tool ever made by man is a mirror. And when we look in the mirror, that’s what QBA’s all about.”

Here's the Challenge from Nick

It's no secret that John's book Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional is about things you can do at work to make your business great. Much of this interview talked about leadership and personal accountability principles that apply equally at home as they do at work.

That's where you come in.

Share this post on social media and include one thing you do at work that you can do at home to make your marriage stronger.

Then comment below with your principle and let us know where you shared it so we can interact with you there. You'll be on the honor system on social media because, well, we're all about honor here!  But if I can find the post on social media I'll share it too, so feel free to include the link to your post in the comment!

And if you choose twitter, be sure to copy John (@QBQguy) and me (@abadhusband) so we can interact with you!

The contest will end in a week or when we get at least 5 comments (whichever is later)!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Shared 🙂 Well, since I am able to work from home and my work includes everything: I think in my work I have to listen closely and a lot….which is also important in my marriage (and sometimes I forget that).

  • Great episode Nick. I listened with Ashley and she loved it. One thing l do at work is solving a new problem everyday.

    And l think l can implement it in our marriage to make our relationship stronger. Thanks for interviewing John Miller to share his experience.

  • Loved this episode! Looks like I need to buy QBQ. I tweeted it out via @happierhusband. My principle is that at work I often ask, “What can I do to make this better?” So applicable in marriage as well. 🙂

  • David Mike

    Love all of John Miller’s stuff. He is amazing! (So are you Nick.)

  • Pingback: What Can I Do? | A Happier Husband()