Log in

10 Traits All High Performance Teams Possess

September 19, 2022 9:28 PM | Christina Sanders (Administrator)

In 2019, the Red Bull Formula 1 Racing Team, a pit crew of 20 people, set a new world record: they changed tires, refueled the car, adjusted aerodynamics, checked and repaired parts, and got the driver, Max Verstappe, back on course in under 2 seconds (1.82 to be precise, blink and you could miss it).

The average pit stop takes 2.4 seconds. Red Bull’s record-breaking pit stop is a 25% improvement, an astounding feat when the smallest winning margin in a race can be 0.01 seconds. Max Verstappe went on to win the Brazilian Grand Prix and perhaps more notably: This was the third time the Red Bull Racing Team Crew broke their own world record that year alone. 

High-performance teams can win or lose a race.

Like race car driving, we live in a fast-paced business with high competitive threats and constant deadline pressure. For your crew, teamwork relies on a few critical essentials: the right tools to get the job done and the right people, powered to do amazing work.  

This past week, we released a labor report with our friends at Delegate CX, the outsourcing experts. In the report (“Tackling the Promo Products Labor Shortage”), we detailed what every promo company needs to recruit and empower top talent to win the race. And in this mini-series, we’ll unlock even more secrets to high-performance teams. 

Today, as many of you face record-breaking growth, you are hiring more than ever before. And many of you are hiring talent outside of the industry, which means you’re left wondering how to assess the right person if the experience doesn’t shape your decision. Regardless of where your next hire comes from, the real secret to high-performance teams is best summed up by Christian Horner, the Team Principal at Red Bull Racing. Trish Madealen wrote that Horner “puts teamwork and collaboration above all else as a recipe for success. Horner has seen it all and is having to constantly adapt to new technology and rules.” 

To create extraordinary teamwork and collaboration, we’ve identified ten crucial traits your high-performance crew should unfailingly possess. Use these traits in your 1:1s as a gentle scorecard to measure performance. Share these traits among your team – even, and especially, among your seasoned pros. Talk about them, and include them in your values. These 10 are hallmarks of winning teams. 


  1. Curiosity: They will need to learn about a thousand different decoration methods. A hundred various shirt options. A thousand cup styles. A curious and open mind will guide them and keep them engaged.

  2. Flexibility: Pivot power. Your team will need to be able to pivot quickly. Supplier out of stock? Pivot. Missed ship date? Pivot.“Flexibility is a mental process which results in an action that tests a possible solution”* Pivoting away from problems towards solutions is a special kind of mastery the pros know and is a non-negotiable for those working with inventory, deadlines, and production.

  3. Respectful Tenacity: Sometimes, your team will have to get very direct with manufacturers and clients, and they need to be able to do so tactfully and respectfully. They need to be able to affect change with the convincing force of a hurricane but through the sweet disposition of a gentle rain. Sounds strange, but the best of them convince kindly, but with authority.

  4. Exactitude and Thoroughness: A detail-oriented mindset tempered by deadlines. Obsessiveness about getting it right. Many salespeople wouldn’t classify themselves as “detail-oriented,” but many become that way as they navigate the complexity of the promo world.

  5. Patience. Grace under pressure. Patience with leadership. Patience with colleagues. Patience with suppliers. There will be high pressure in these roles from time to time, and often on back-to-back days, make sure they can handle it with compassion.

  6. Conscientiousness: Give-a-shitted-ness. They need to care, strongly about the outcome of each transaction. This is (surprisingly) one of the most challenging traits to teach; either they possess it, or they catch it learning from you and your team, but each team member will need to be able to see projects through to deadline without handholding. 

  7. Interdependence: Working on a team in this business requires an interdependent attitude: all parties must possess a confident humility and deference toward one another. And like the racing team mentioned above, every single person is needed, working harmoniously while under -at times- intense conditions.  Rick Stephens, Senior Vice President of HR at The Boeing Corporation, said, “There’s not one specific thing or skill people have to have to work for us. But I can tell you why we fire people: soft skills. We hire for hard skills. We fire for soft skills. The ability to interact and communicate with others or behave ethically and take responsibility for things tends to be where people tend to break down.” (BTW: If you want to get a quick, 26-second visual on how teamwork works better, check out Red Bulls one man vs. team vid).

  8. Initiative: Enough said.

  9. Confidence: We asked Sandy Gonzalez, CEO at MadeToOrder, a successful, large distributor, to identify the number one trait all top salespeople have (and what many salespeople lack), and without hesitation, she said: “confidence.” You can’t have 100% confidence in inventory 100% of the time. You can’t have 100% confidence in decorating capabilities when viewing complex artwork. You can’t have 100% confidence in timelines until you talk to the factory. There’s a lot to be unsure of, but memorable sales moments are not predicated on the known factors (if it were simple and clear, they wouldn’t need you!); the best sales opportunities are created by exploring the unknowns through the certainty of what you do know. 


Peter McCutcheon from Harper + Scott is ASI’s 2022 Distributor Salesperson of the Year. According to ASI, he “increased his sales by more than 250% and hit eight figures”. In March, Mark Graham and I traveled to Brooklyn and enjoyed sitting down with a part of Harper + Scott’s team, including Peter, Michael, and Kate, and learned from Peter that a large part of his success stems from his mindset: prior to joining Harper+Scott, he was a significant buyer of promo, working on the client-side and agency-side, first.

Danny Meyer, the famous restauranteur, suggested an imagination exercise each of us should try when interviewing a candidate: Imagine this person working on the most complicated, stressful, multi-product order for your biggest client:

  • Can they think like the client and understand what’s at stake and why this project matters?

  • Can this person handle the complex details of the order?

  • Can they shepherd projects through multiple suppliers, corral kitting + packaging, and bring order out of chaos?

  • Can they handle out-of-stocks gracefully with both suppliers and clients?

  • Can they sync with your team graciously while communicating with your busy client in a way that exudes calmness and provides assurance?

The “salesforce” is now democratized, meaning everyone is in sales now, and virtually everyone works with either critical clients or critical supplier partners; therefore, a non-negotiable is that they should have amazing client skills, and the best way to adopt those skills is to think like a client.


About Red Bull leader Christian Horner, Trish Madealen wrote further that not only does he put teamwork and collaboration above all else as a recipe for success, but “Horner has seen it all and is having to constantly adapt to new technology and rules.” 

Formula 1 Racing is one of the most-watched sporting event outside of soccer and the Olympics (and, by the way, does hella work with merch) and yet is in a constant state of change. The rules may change for you and your team too (hello, supply chain), the client may change (hello, kitting), the tech may change (hello, new shiny software), but according to Horner, your biggest asset is your people and “the brainpower and the way they work together. People feed off each other. And when you've got that stimulus within a group, people bouncing ideas off each other, that's what drives the performance of the car forward.” 

For more information on our Labor Report and outsourcing, visit our friends at Delegate CX. And to harness all the power of a Formula 1 engine inside your business, check out our software platform that fuels the fastest growing distributors on the track

Used With Permission From commonsku

Specialty Advertising Association of California (SAAC) 
3125 Skyway Circle N
Irving, TX 75038

p:972.258.3070   e: info@saac.net

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software