A Great List of Lousy Questions

Excerpted from Chapter 34 of “QBQ! The Question Behind the Question” by John G. Miller

Learn more at QBQ.com

Jim Ryan, president of Carlson Marketing Group, sat behind the desk. He was polite but crunched for time. He had thirty minutes. After a few introductory remarks, the visitor—younger, without an impressive title and a bit nervous, but still hoping to capture his potential client’s interest—asked, “Jim, have you ever heard questions like these?” and shared several questions he called Incorrect Questions or “IQs”

Then came what’s commonly known in sales as a “death pause”: A person asks a question and instead of an immediate response gets back an empty stare, sometimes even a glare. The death pause hung in the room like a heavy, foreboding cloud. The visitor was starting to sweat. An eternity later, Jim smiled and said,

“Wow, John, that’s a great list of really lousy questions!”

Yes! The IQs worked. His interest was piqued. And the questions worked because, like most people, he’d heard them before. From the guest chair I (John Miller, author of QBQ!) smiled back, confident a successful relationship had begun. Now let’s look at our own list of lousy questions.

As we read the following list of roles with IQs and QBQs, let’s think about what IQs we might be asking, and more important, what QBQs we could ask instead.

Note: “QBQ” stands for “The Question Behind the Question” and is a tool for leaders at all levels to practice Personal Accountability. The QBQ! book explores this tool extensively.

Here we go—

Customer Service Incorrect Questions (IQs):

“When will shipping start getting orders out on time?”

“Why does the customer expect so much?”

“Who’s going to take care of the customer?”

“When will the sales department do it right the first time?”


“How can I serve them?”

“What can I be more accountable to them today?”

Sales IQs:

“Why are our prices so high?”

“When are we going to be more competitive?”

“Why won’t the customer call me back?”

“When will marketing give us better materials?”

“Why can’t manufacturing make what we sell?”


“What can I do today to be more effective?”

“How can I add value for my customers?”

Manufacturing IQs:

“Why can’t sales just sell what we make?”

“When will they learn to sell the right specs?”

“Who’s going to get them to understand?”


“How can I better understand the challenges faced by the field?”

“What can I do to build rapport with the salespeople?”

Management IQs:

“Why doesn’t the younger generation want to work?”

“When will we find good people?”

“Why aren’t they motivated?”

“Who made the mistake?”

“Why can’t people come in on time?”

“When will they get engaged?”


“How can I be a more effective coach?”

“What can I do to better understand each person I manage?”

“How can I build a stronger team?”

Employee IQs:

“Why do we have to go through all this change?”

“When is someone going to train me?”

“Why don’t I get paid more?”

“Who’s going to clarify my job?”

“Who’s going to give us the vision?”


“What can I do to be more productive?”

“How can I adapt to the changing environment?”

“What can I do to develop myself?”

And never forget, QBQ! is just as effective in our home life …

Parent IQs:

“When is my child going to listen to me?”

“Why does my daughter hang out with those kids?”

“When will my son open up to me?”

“Who made the mess in here?”

“Why can’t you be more like your sister?”


“How can I get to know him better?”

“What can I do to help her get through these tough years?”

“How can I improve my parenting skills?”

Teenager IQs:

“When are my parents going to ‘get it’?”

“Why don’t they like my friends?”

“Who’s going to give me a job?”

“When will I find time to get everything done?”


“How can I show more respect to Mom and Dad?”

“What can I do to communicate better?”

“How can I manage my time more effectively?”

Note: To learn how to utilize the QBQ more effectively at home, read “Raising Accountable Kids: How to Be an Outstanding Parent Using the Power of Personal Accountability”

The QBQ! is all about practicing Personal Accountability, a core value for all successful people. Have you been asking QBQs or IQs recently?

Only you know!

John G. Miller


John G. Miller is the author of QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, Flipping the Switch: Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability, Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional and co-author of Parenting the QBQ Way.    And his just released The QBQ Workbook.  You will find all of John’s books available for sale @ QBQ.com  

John is founder of QBQ, Inc., an organizational development firm based in Colorado dedicated to “Helping Organizations Make Personal Accountability a Core Value.” A 1980 graduate of Cornell University, John has been involved in the training and speaking industry since 1986. He lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, Karen. They have seven children and seven grandkids.  You can also connect with John on FacebookTwitter & LinkedIn.


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