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How frequently do you shift blame for mistakes you’ve made?


SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from over 240,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How frequently do you shift blame for mistakes you’ve made?

  • Never. I always own my mistakes: 66%
  • Sometimes. It just kind of happens, and I don’t realize I’m doing it: 32%
  • Often. Usually, someone else caused the problem to start: 1%
  • Always. I have a hard time taking responsibility for mistakes: 1%

Mess up, fess up. While most of you actively admit to and own mistakes, there’s a large group of you who admit to blame-shifting. It’s easy to do. None of us likes to make mistakes let alone claim responsibility for them. When you do find yourself in that situation, it might be easier to split the mistake into components and own the portions of it that are your responsibility. Many mistakes have multiple parties contributing. No one wants to take the blame for someone else’s mistake so we find ourselves attributing the entire mistake to someone else’s actions. Find and own the parts of it that are yours. Leave it to others to take responsibility for their portion. The interesting thing is once you publicly claim your part of the issue, others will tend to claim theirs too since they’re no longer on the hook for the entire issue.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He’s the author of three leadership books: “One Piece of Paper,” “Lead Inside the Box” and “The Elegant Pitch.”