1) They don’t know why they should do it.
If you want to work with intelligent adult professionals, you need to treat your employees like intelligent adult professionals. This means that in MOST situations, MANY of your team members want to understand WHY they are doing something. Intelligence generally comes partnered with curiosity. For some people this is not just being nosey. Some people need context and for them context means understanding the why behind the what. There are people who cannot or will not move on until they understand why a specific task is required. These are good people. These are people you should use for brainstorming, because once they understand the why, they can contribute all kinds of great ideas.
How can you handle this? When you assign work (and you are not in the midst of an emergency situation); don’t just tell people what to do, explain to them why they are doing it.
2) They don’t know how.
A major challenge with people who do not know how to do their jobs is that they either do not know what they do not know or they are hesitant to admit that they do not know how to do their jobs. At first these individuals might have good excuses as to why the work has not been completed. They were too busy, they were waiting for someone else, or they were asked to work on something that was a higher priority. But sooner or later (sooner is best), you need to know why they are not doing the work.
How can you handle this? Ask them if they have questions or concerns about doing the work. Give them the opportunity to let you know that there is a problem. If they share with you that they are having challenges, then get them help. If they opt not to tell you, move on and give them a clear time frame to complete the work. Remove all obstacles (other assignments, priorities etc). Set an appointment to review their work. Do not let this appointment slip. When you review their work with them you will have the opportunity to gauge where they are having a problem. If you find that a part of the assignment is incorrect or incomplete, use this opportunity to find out from them why something is incorrect or incomplete. Get them help, training, mentoring etc. so that they will be able to complete the work.
3) They don’t know what they are supposed to do.
This is different than not knowing how. This is the person who is not clear on what the assignments or tasks are supposed to be. It could be that they understand the desired end result, but they do not understand the steps to take to get to the desired end result. Typically what this person needs is some help translating the big picture into logical and measureable tasks.
How can you handle this? You can help them by either working with them to create their task list or by having another team member mentor them or by having them take a shot at this by themselves and then bring it to you for review and discussion. Once this person knows what they are supposed to do, they will perform.