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Improve Communication with this Key Phrase

communication, accountability
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I was in Philadelphia teaching “Personal Accountability & the QBQ!” and facilitating a discussion on content from our Outstanding! book. Around 50 people leaders and senior directors invested 4 hours of their day to learn, contemplate and share ideas. At one point, we were engaging in a discussion around the QBQ (an accountable question), “How can improve my communication?” 

I wandered the room, hearing snippets of conversation. At one table, an HR leader said, 

“Lately I’ve realized my meetings with my team members have been very task-focused. Which is great and keeps us moving! But I want to improve at making space for them to share about anything on their minds.” 

Another gal jumped in, saying, “Me too! I’ve started taking 5-minute walks with my people. No agenda, just a quick catch-up.” 

A senior director added in, saying, “I realized I hadn’t been face-to-face with one of my key teammates in a while, and I knew we were both in the city that week. I texted her and asked to meet for lunch—and was really looking forward to connecting! On that day, we sat down, and she immediately met my eye, looking worried, and said, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘What do you mean? Nothing’s wrong!’ She breathed a sigh of relief and said, ‘Oh good. You tend to only want to meet when something is wrong!’ That made me realize I want to grow in connecting with my employees.” 

A handful of other participants indicated similar desires to become better at creating space for connection, and specifically, improving their listening skills. I loved hearing these kind-hearted leaders expressing their desires to make sure their employees felt heard, and valued! My thoughts drifted to my own boss (AKA my dad, creator and author of QBQ!) and realized a tip I could share with the group. I pulled their attention back to the front, and said, 

“One thing my dad started doing years ago, that I find myself now doing, is making sure to ask, ‘Anything else?’ It’s a simple phrase that allows the other person to add to the conversation. (My sisters and I actually joke about how sometimes, we’re out of things to talk about and yet Dad keeps asking, ‘Anything else?’ over and over. ‘No, Pops! There’s nothing else! Thanks for asking, but I gotta go!’)”

The group laughed with me, and I went on to share how I’ve been using the phrase to connect with my 13-year-old son, who, just like these managers and their employees, I can often be too task-oriented with, firing off questions like, “Joshua, did you brush your teeth? Take your vitamins? Do your homework?” “Joshua, can you help your brother? Take out the trash?” And then I find myself asking a lousy question internally like, “Why don’t I feel connected with my son? When is he going to share more about his life with me?” 

“Any of you parents in the room feel this way sometimes?” I asked. Many raised their hands, affirming this reality of parenting teens. 

I’d realized the better question was, “How can I create space for him to share?” And my dad’s trick of “Anything else?” came to mind. I’d used it with Joshua at bedtime a few nights before, and it worked so well that I actually had to tell my child, “Okay, that’s enough sharing! We need to go to bed!” The group chatted about this for another minute or so, and moved on in the program. 

Later that afternoon, after my program had wrapped up, I was sitting in on a session that the company’s internal trainer was facilitating. He made a statement and asked the group what they thought of it. One guy raised his hand, and offered a conflicting opinion of what was being discussed. The trainer said, “Well, thank you for sharing. ….ANYTHING ELSE?” with a twinkle in his eye. The whole group laughed, the tension was diffused, and the trainer came over to fist bump me. 

Is there a person in your life you need to say, “Anything else?” to the next time you’re in conversation? QBQ! is a powerful tool that helps each of us—whether you’ve known the material your whole life, or just learned it this morning—to ask, “What can I do to improve?” and “How can I make a change?” 

Anything else? 

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