A psychologist and sales recruitment expert says the answer is yes—but you’d better get started now. If Drive isn’t present by 21 or 22 the window has closed. Here, Dr. Chris Croner offers a simple, yet powerful approach for helping build Drive in kids. 

Our kids spend a worrisome amount of time texting, gaming, and posting on social media. If they need an answer, a quick Google search reveals it in seconds. Much has been written on what all this screen time is doing to their social skills… but what about their work ethics? In an age of distractions, short cuts, and instant gratification, how can parents instill the grit, accountability, and old-fashioned DRIVE kids will need to achieve and compete in the real world?

          It’s a subject Dr. Christopher Croner has pondered quite a bit. As a psychologist and sales retention and recruitment expert, he helps organizations find and keep high-revenue-producing “Hunters.” He certainly doesn’t bill himself as a parenting guru. Yet, surprisingly often, he finds himself fielding this question from sales managers and other clients who also happen to be parents: What can I do to teach my kids Drive?

          “I talk a lot about Drive because research shows it’s the most important trait needed for success in sales,” says Dr. Croner, principal at SalesDrive, a content-rich resource center overflowing with educational articles, podcasts, Masterclasses, science-based sales psychology strategies, and other tools and techniques aimed at helping companies maximize their sales team’s performance.  

          “Top performing athletes are high-Drive, too,” he adds. “High achievers in pretty much any field are high-Drive. It’s what pushes them to set goals, compete, and approach challenges with confidence and optimism. So, when clients hear this, their minds always go to their own kids.”

          Here’s the kicker, says Dr. Croner, who is also coauthor along with Richard Abraham of Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again: Selecting Candidates Who Are Absolutely Driven to Succeed past the age of around 21 or 22, people’s Drive levels are locked in. By then, you have it or you don’t.  

          Drive is made up of three non-teachable traits: Need for Achievement, Competitiveness, and Optimism. SalesDrive’s proprietary DriveTest®—an assessment based on 90 years of research on the subject as well as the company’s own work—helps businesses identify this elusive quality.

          “This is why we especially urge clients seeking to hire ‘Hunters’ to ask candidates to take the assessment before they hire them,” says Dr. Croner. “You just can’t develop Drive in an adult. That window has closed.”

          So, what can parents do while their kids are young and their personalities are still forming? Dr. Croner addresses this subject in this video and podcast, both titled “How to Inspire Drive in Your Kids.” Here are just a few of the points he makes:

Set clear, consistent models of accountability, reward, and consequences—and DON’T CAVE. Let’s say that, to receive an allowance, a child is responsible and accountable for a chore. Say, mowing the lawn every Friday afternoon. Sounds clear enough, right? But, all too often, a parent will let the chore slide and still give the child his or her allowance.
“That does not build Drive,” says Dr. Croner. “That builds a manipulative approach which, over time, can manifest all sorts of negative outcomes. Remember, kids are masters at probing for weakness and finding the course of least resistance.”

Bring the kids into the goal-setting process. Don’t say, “You will cut the lawn, or you won’t be paid.” Instead, say, “Let’s talk about how you can earn an allowance. I’m setting your allowance at 25 dollars per week if you perform certain work. This is the way people get paid when they’re grown up. They do the work and they receive the payment. If they don’t do the work, they don’t receive the payment. Does that sound fair to you?” 

“The kid will probably say yes,” notes Dr. Croner. “Then say, ‘Okay, so we agree that you’ll cut the lawn for 25 dollars per week. On Saturday mornings we’ll meet and if you’ve done the work, we will pay. If you haven’t done the work, you won’t receive the money. Do you agree?’ Again, the kid will probably say yes.”

Don’t bundle or pile on different types of work. The more you can tie accountability to the performance of a clear mission, the better, says Dr. Croner. If there’s too much stuff loaded into the allowance like cutting the lawn, homework, cleaning their room, etc., the whole point gets diluted.

“Keep it simple,” he says, “Set a clear mission. Agree on it. Then consistently enforce the consequences one way or another. That builds Drive and it builds character.”

          This may sound easy enough, but clearly it isn’t, considering that only about 18 percent of the population has the level of Drive needed to be a high-performing salesperson.

          “I am biased toward sales, as it’s an awesome career that allows a person to write their own ticket,” reflects Dr. Croner. “But even if your child wants to do something entirely different, they still need to be in that 18 percent. It’s no exaggeration to say Drive is the fuel that powers all different types of success. Parents need to get intentional about instilling it.”

About the Author:

Dr. Christopher Croner is principal at SalesDrive and coauthor (along with Richard Abraham) of the book Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again, which details his research and practice in identifying the non-teachable personality traits common to top producers. Dr. Croner received his BA in psychology from DePaul University and his master’s and PhD in clinical psychology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He developed the proprietary DriveTest® online sales test and The Drive Interview®, both used for hiring “Hunter” salespeople. Using this methodology, he has helped over 1,200 companies worldwide to hire and develop top-performing salespeople. To learn more please visit https://salesdrive.info.