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Behind BSM’s Favorite Acronym: The QBQ

Wednesday, September 19, 2018 9:00 AM

The BSM Way

Written by: Gina Kaspar

Gina Kaspar
Director of human resources and finance

Here at BSM, we embrace acronyms as part of our everyday life — in fact, they are something we’re well known for! One of the first acronyms every BSM team member commits to memory is QBQ. For those who haven’t heard of QBQ, it stands for the Question Behind the Question. Part of BSM’s onboarding process includes introducing new employees to this acronym — or, more aptly described, philosophy — by having them read the “QBQ!” book by John G. Miller.

Asking the Right Questions

Since BSM’s introduction to “QBQ!” several years ago, it has become a way of life for our team members at work and home. The core aim of "QBQ!" is to instill a positive twist on blame-thinking by teaching us to be accountable for our actions, words, and thoughts. I know what you’re thinking — it sounds like a stereotypical self-help book. It’s much more than that! “QBQ!” urges us to stop asking questions like, “Why don’t good things happen to me at work?” Rather than paint yourself as a victim of circumstance, hold yourself accountable by asking yourself QBQ-type questions such as, “What can I do to be the best employee I can be?

According to the book, there are three simple guidelines for creating a QBQ:

  1. Begin with “What” or “How” (not “Why,” “When,” or “Who”),
  2. Contain an “I” (not “they,” “we,” or “you”), and
  3. Focus on action.

At its core, QBQ is quite simple. It’s a tool that enables individuals to practice personal accountability by making better choices in the moment.

Leading by Example

Those who simply dictate company principles to employees and expect to see results are managers. Leaders, on the other hand, know the only way to achieve results is to embody the values they promote. BSM Founder and CEO Bruce Maller is a leader; he lives the QBQ and works to continually instill that philosophy among the team. For example, last year at BSM’s annual strategic planning meeting, Bruce asked the entire staff a QBQ that most company owners would shy away from — “What can our company do to provide better benefits for team members?”

The BSM team at last year's strategic planning meeting.

Afterwards, Bruce opened the floor to the entire staff, giving employees free reign to offer any suggestions they thought would make BSM an even better place to work. Among other suggestions, there were requests for more paid time off (PTO), summer holidays, snacks in the office, and a more casual dress code. Bruce then created a task force called the Work Enhancement Team to conceptualize these changes, of which I was fortunate enough to be a member. Dubbed the WE Team, our group was tasked with looking at BSM’s current employee benefit package, researching what other companies offer, and providing executive management with suggestions on what BSM can do better.

The WE Team quickly went to work to see what was doable and what would make sense from a budget perspective. While it was not possible to enact all requests, we accomplished many, including more PTO, a generous employer-sponsored retirement plan, and a few bonus Fridays off during summer months. To grant summertime Friday closures, we had to figure out how BSM would maintain phone coverage for our clients on these days. The solution lends itself as a terrific example of how employees embody QBQ.

BSM staff willingly volunteered to provide phone coverage on the selected bonus Fridays in exchange for alternative days off. Their graciousness in asking the QBQ (“How can I help our company?”) allowed everyone to enjoy a few bonus days off while ensuring BSM continues to provide excellent customer support. Bruce led by example when he asked a QBQ of staff, and staff followed his lead by employing another QBQ — and in the end, everyone was better off for it!

Taking Accountability

BSM doesn’t just employ the QBQ to carry out annual strategic initiatives — we embody it every single day, supporting one another through personal accountability. As BSM’s Human Resources Director, I NEVER hear “That’s not my job!” or “I’m too busy!” What I do hear is “I’d love to be a part of that project!” or “I have a few things on my plate right now, but let’s put something on the calendar so we can dedicate time to this when it makes sense.”

QBQ has strengthened BSM’s team spirit, and I’m honored to work with such a fantastic group of people. Our company and team have always thrived on being the best we can be for one another and our customers, and QBQ helps us accomplish that every single day.

YOUR TURN: When was the last time you asked yourself a QBQ in the workplace? Share your QBQ with us in the comment section below.


  • Marla Galasso, BSM Corporate Services Manager said

    Gina, this perfectly articulates how things work here at BSM! Over my 13 years here, I've seen many changes in our company — and few have been more impactful on our work culture than the year we adopted QBQ! I think you hit the nail on the head when you explain how Bruce embodies and consistently demonstrates this philosophy. When the boss is holding himself accountable, it's pretty challenging not to hold yourself accountable. In a very short time, this philosophy has become a personal habit without much effort at all. At home, my husband loves my QBQ habit. I don't ask, "Why didn't you/When will you take out the garbage?" I say, "How can I help with getting the garbage out?" He's a real gentleman, so I'm pretty lucky that way :)

  • Glenn Morley, BSM Senior Consultant said

    Hi Gina, I love your article! I literally have a QBQ moment every day. Since it has become such a strong part of my own personal and professional DNA (thank you BSM!), I feel a missionary zeal to share it. The peace, centeredness, and focus that is implicit within a QBQ culture is simply amazing. Thank you for sharing this Gina!

  • Regina Boore, BSM Senior Vice President and Executive Consultant said

    Thanks for a great article, Gina. It is such a blessing to be part of a positive culture. I spent the past two days at an ASC that has had infection control problems. Boy, could they have benefited from QBQ! Unfortunately, the leadership reacted to this problem with finger-pointing and intimidation. As a result of their failure to take a constructive approach to problem solving, they may lose some valuable personnel.

  • Elizabeth Holloway, BSM Senior Consultant said

    Gina, I cannot be more proud to be a part of the QBQ! culture at BSM. I also feel incredibly blessed to be with such amazing people who approach work through mutual respect and personal accountability. I tell all my clients that this resource is one of the single most effective tools available to help change an organization's work environment. I hope everyone reading this blog will be inspired to use QBQ!

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