Leaders and Asking Questions: The Surprising Discovery of What Is Needed to Find Solutions and Build Relationships with Niels Van Quaquebeke

Niels Van Quaquebeke is an organizational psychologist based in Hamburg, Germany. He is recognized as one of the Top100 German-speaking business scholars under 40 (Handelsblatt). He is the recipient of multiple awards for his teaching and is frequently featured in public media. He has a book on the psychology of leadership (currently only in German). 

Often leaders are in solution-finding mode and are frustrated at the lack of engagement and follow-through. During his research on leadership, over time he discovered, “Questions are just the spark. What is needed is listening afterward.” Niels shares research and gives examples and tips from his executive training which give insight into the power of respectful inquiry, asking questions, and listening. He also looks into the future of leadership in the digital era.  

Enjoy listening in. 

“We started to realize one of the simplest things. Questions are just the spark. What it is listening needed afterward. If you ask the question but don’t listen, you might as well have not asked the question. Even worse, it’s almost like an insult being asked a question and not being listened to.” 

– Niels Van Quaquebeke 


02:13 – Niels tells his story about how he started researching questions, what he discovered to be the key to questions having an impact, and how this led to “Respectful Inquiry”. 

05:40 – Asking to reply, not to understand better understood. 

07:13 – Respectful Inquiry explained  

12:05 – What Niels has learned most from his research on listening: a most powerful communication technique 

13:00 – Niels shares was surprises managers in executive education and a more effective alternative to providing solutions. 

15:01 – Raquel and Niels discover a new word called reverse listening 

16:59 – Niels’ thoughts on collective listening 

17:52 – Niels talks about current experimental research on questions and listening dynamics in teams 

19:09 – Common concerns executives express in executive training 

20:56 – Asking questions in an alpha – environment: What big cultural change needs to happen when it comes to question-asking and listening and what can be the first steps 

21:43 – Can question-asking and listening be a defensive form of communication? 

26:42 – Effective questioning techniques 

30:10 – When Niels first really noticed the impact of listening 

32:12 – A recommended feedforward tool leaders can use with their employees or at home with their partner 

37:00 – The truth about leadership in this digital age 

39:32 – Niels talks about his book on leadership and psychology 

Key Takeaways:

“By asking questions and listening to the other party to actually satisfy them, that’s when people feel like they can really flourish at work. And that’s when they’re going to put in their best effort. And you don’t have to constantly guide and control them. After all … as a leader, you want a proactive workforce.” –  Niels Van Quaquebeke 

“Managers do not need to fix things for the other person, they just need to listen and help the other person with their attention so that the other one feels confident so explore for themselves. ” –  Niels Van Quaquebeke 

“If I actually listened to you, and provide you space for your answer, then you start to listen to yourself as well.” –  Niels Van Quaquebeke 

I think once we started listening to ourselves more, we feel what parts of our answers ring true and what parts are wrong.” – Niels Van Quaquebeke 

“As a leader, you shouldn’t always tell visions and have strong opinions. But there are times when you should because other people need to see what you stand for, what you want to achieve, how you want to achieve it.” – Niels Van Quaquebeke 

“Listening is powerful for relationships and finding solutions.“ – Niels Van Quaquebeke 

“Give a little room for open questions and the magic will happen.“ – Niels Van Quaquebeke 

“It comes down to your intention. Why do you want to ask a question? Do you want to reply and control the conversation or do you ask questions because you want to understand the other party, not judge them?” – Niels Van Quaquebeke 

Connect with Niels Van Quaquebeke

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