I've written often on the power of transparency--the backbone of trust--that brings teams together to produce great work. Trust simply cannot happen without it.

And if you're in a leadership role, I caution you--OK, I ask you nicely, you will thank me later--please do your absolute best to know the status and condition of employees under your care.

This is where the ability to be transparent does its best work, and gives you competitive advantage.

When you are curious enough to find out what's going on with your team, how they feel about things, you show that you care. They, in turn, feel valued and give discretionary effort.

The best approach for transparent transactions is found in one-on-one conversations. There are questions every leader exercising emotional intelligence must ask for open and productive dialog to take place.

4 Questions for your one on ones this week.

To help set the stage for great discussions that will increase employee motivation and engagement, here are 4 questions you can pose to your team:

1. If you had to use one word to describe your work experience, what would it be and why?

First off, you obviously want to establish upfront that there's no repercussion for exercising transparency! Be the leader that pumps the fear out of the room and allows employees to share openly in good faith--the good, the bad, and the ugly. By allowing them the freedom to express that one word, and hear their explanation, it will increase your self-awareness to explore problem-solving and solutions to problems you may not know was there. Thank them for their transparency, and ensure their safety once again, and that you have their best interest in mind as your allies.

2. List three things that motivate you to do your work each day.

As you invest more time talking to your valued employees, what you get back in these answers may give you tremendous insights into what they enjoy about their work and company. Ask follow up probing questions as you listen. Why does something in particular motivate them? Is it a newly-discovered strength that they can utilize elsewhere to bring out their best?

3. What is one thing that I could do to make you more productive?

Make sure to hold them to just one thing. Give them time to process and don't rush them. Silence is golden. If they come up empty, ask about the last time they didn't enjoy their work. What could have been done to make it better? If they're new to the job, ask about a previous job--what about it worked and didn't work?

4. What is one thing our company isn't currently doing that you think we should be doing to grow the business?

You may have brilliant out-of-the-box thinkers under your company roof and don't even know it. So ask for feedback on direction, brand strategy, customer retention, and hiring. Watch for the quiet introverts who don't speak up--you may discover your own Edison or Jobs with fantastic ideas and innovative thinking on your team.

Closing thoughts.

Send these to your team members in advance as well. It's only fair that they have an opportunity to put some thought into it before the two of you meet.

When you ask these questions, you're building up the capacity to be transparent on both sides of the table, and getting right to the heart of the people you lead. You'll learn what makes them tick, and how best to serve their needs so they can be more productive.

I end with a question for the leader reading this: Do you really know what's going on with your team?