Fostering clear and open communications with your employees needs to be a core business value. A constructive exchange is just that: a dialogue. But how do you know which questions to ask? More importantly, how can you be sure the ones you put to your employees will be the most impactful?

Building a business based on consistent communication requires strategy. Asking powerful questions is a deliberate act that forces you to consider your business objectives and asks your employees to engage in the same sort of self-assessment. You can’t expect to sit down for five minutes and expect them to magically arise. Albert Einstein explained once that if his life depended on finding a solution to particular problem, he would spend more than 90 percent of the time finding the right question to ask, instead of focusing primarily on the answer.

There are several steps you can take to ensure the conversation you have with your employees draws out the most important insights and ideas that sustain your business.

1. Conceive
The first step of any process is establishing a baseline or a foundation. It’s no different when crafting powerful questions. You need to clearly identify your purpose. A single question won’t likely be applicable to all situations, so use your objective as a guideline to brainstorm your ideas. At the same time, don’t be excessively narrow in developing your ideas. This is the point at which you have the freedom to consider all aspects of a particular problem, project or performance matter.

2. Construct
When it comes time to put the pen to paper – or fingers to the keyboard – you should be judicious in your word choice and make sure it sets the right context. Questions should be phrased in a way that gives employees the opportunity to highlight any knowledge gaps or ineffective processes currently in place. You should also give employees the opportunity to focus on strengths and what is working well.

3. Customize
It should go without saying that all of your employees are unique individuals. So the questions you pose to them shouldn’t necessarily be carbon copies of the ones you asked others. Think about what your employees value. What do both you and your employee stand to gain from the exchange and how should your question reflect this?

4. Engage
Last, interact with your employees. At this point, the benefits of the first three steps will manifest in the insights that come to light. But delivery is crucial. You should convey how important your employees’ feedback is, and be as responsive as possible.