Why Every Team Needs Its ‘Oh Sh*t’ Moment

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Why Every Team Needs Its ‘Oh Sh*t’ Moment

In the fast-paced world of startups, moments of crisis are inevitable. These “Oh Sh*t” moments, while seemingly catastrophic, are crucial for the growth and development of any high-performance team. Embracing these moments can lead to improved team dynamics, better decision-making, and ultimately, a more resilient business. In this article, we’ll explore why every team needs its “Oh Sht” moment and how to navigate it effectively.

Understanding the “Oh Sh*t” Moment

Team in crisis brainstorming sessionby Matteo Vistocco (https://unsplash.com/@mrsunflower94)

An “Oh Sh*t” moment is that sudden, often unexpected, crisis that jolts a team out of its comfort zone. It could be a major product failure, a key client pulling out, or a critical funding shortfall. These moments force teams to confront their vulnerabilities, rethink their strategies, and innovate under pressure.

The Catalyst for Change

Crises serve as powerful catalysts for change. They compel teams to reassess their current methods and identify areas of improvement. Without these moments, teams may become complacent, sticking to familiar but outdated processes. An “Oh Sh*t” moment disrupts this inertia, pushing the team towards growth and innovation.

Building Resilience

Resilience is the hallmark of any successful startup. Navigating through a crisis not only builds individual character but also strengthens team cohesion. Teams that have faced and overcome significant challenges are better equipped to handle future uncertainties. This resilience becomes a competitive advantage, enabling the startup to thrive in the face of adversity.

High-Performance Team Dynamics

Team collaborating on a whiteboardby Randy Fath (https://unsplash.com/@randyfath)

Effective team dynamics are essential for navigating “Oh Sh*t” moments. High-performance teams are characterized by their ability to communicate openly, trust each other, and collaborate efficiently under pressure.

Open Communication

In times of crisis, open and honest communication becomes paramount. Teams must feel comfortable sharing their concerns, ideas, and feedback. This transparency helps in identifying the root causes of the problem and devising effective solutions.

Trust and Collaboration

Trust is the bedrock of any successful team. During an “Oh Sh*t” moment, team members must trust each other’s expertise and judgment. This trust fosters collaboration, enabling the team to pool their strengths and work towards a common goal.

Leadership and Decision-Making

Strong leadership is crucial during crises. Leaders must remain calm, provide clear direction, and make informed decisions. They should empower team members to take ownership of their tasks and contribute to the problem-solving process.

Questions to Ask Your Team to Improve Performance

Team meeting with sticky notes on a wallby bharath g s (https://unsplash.com/@xen0m0rph)

To navigate an “Oh Sh*t” moment effectively, it’s essential to ask the right questions. These questions can help identify underlying issues, uncover new perspectives, and drive collective problem-solving.

What Went Wrong?

Understanding the root cause of the crisis is the first step towards resolution. Encourage the team to analyze the situation critically and identify what went wrong. This analysis should be objective, focusing on facts rather than assigning blame.

What Are Our Options?

Once the problem is identified, brainstorm potential solutions. Encourage creative thinking and consider all possible options, even those that may seem unconventional. This open-minded approach can lead to innovative solutions that might not have been considered otherwise.

How Can We Prevent This in the Future?

Every crisis is a learning opportunity. Reflect on the lessons learned and discuss how similar issues can be prevented in the future. This proactive approach helps in building a more robust and resilient team.

What Are Our Strengths?

In times of crisis, it’s important to recognize and leverage the team’s strengths. Identify the skills, expertise, and resources that can be utilized to navigate through the challenge. This positive reinforcement boosts morale and confidence.

Real-World Examples of “Oh Sh*t” Moments

Startup team celebrating successby John Schnobrich (https://unsplash.com/@johnishappysometimes)

Several successful startups have faced their own “Oh Sh*t” moments and emerged stronger. These real-world examples highlight the importance of embracing crises and using them as stepping stones to success.


Airbnb’s founders faced a significant crisis when their initial funding ran out. They resorted to selling cereal boxes to keep the company afloat. This resourcefulness caught the attention of investors and eventually led to the company’s success.


Slack, the popular collaboration tool, was initially a gaming company called Tiny Speck. When their game failed to gain traction, the team pivoted to focus on the internal communication tool they had developed. This pivot transformed Slack into a billion-dollar company.

Actionable Recommendations for Startups

Startup team working togetherby Austin Distel (https://unsplash.com/@austindistel)

To effectively navigate “Oh Sh*t” moments, startups should adopt the following strategies:

Foster a Culture of Resilience

Encourage a mindset that views challenges as opportunities for growth. Celebrate small wins and learn from failures. This culture of resilience will prepare the team to handle crises with confidence.

Invest in Team Building

Regular team-building activities can strengthen relationships and improve collaboration. These activities help in building trust and understanding among team members, which is crucial during crises.

Develop a Crisis Management Plan

Having a well-defined crisis management plan can provide a roadmap for navigating “Oh Sh*t” moments. This plan should outline the steps to be taken, the roles and responsibilities of team members, and the communication strategy.

Continuous Learning and Improvement

Encourage continuous learning and improvement. Provide opportunities for team members to upskill and stay updated with industry trends. This commitment to growth will enhance the team’s ability to innovate and adapt.


Every team needs its “Oh Sh*t” moment. These crises, while challenging, are essential for driving growth, innovation, and resilience. By fostering effective team dynamics, asking the right questions, and learning from real-world examples, startups can navigate these moments successfully and emerge stronger. Embrace the chaos, learn from it, and watch your team thrive.