Deflect and defer is the name I give to a leadership technique I have found useful historically. It is a mechanism to avoid conflict, and ensure the appropriate audience is involved in decision making.


Someone requests some action without going through the normal prioritisation process, or if there is anything concerning about the action being requested.


The request is placing you in the position of both being the decision maker and making the decision in the moment.


The idea here is to avoid saying “no” in the moment. It’s not unlike the “turn your tongue seven times before speaking” approach to giving yourself time to think before speaking. A “no” can potentially cause conflict as the action may be of value to the individual.


In this situation you want to deflect to another, or potentially just broader audience, and defer the decision in time e.g. “no problem, but we will likely want to involve Bob and Jane so they are across the change”. In this example you are deflecting the decision at least in part to Bob and/or Jane. You are also deferring when the decision can be made, by requiring Bob and Jane in the decision making process.