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Agreed that emotion/instinct can be as important, or more important, than rational argument in many cases. One challenge to basing decisions on “subjective” criteria, though, is that the weight slmeone will give it ks tied to their relationship to the person / the persons reputation, whereas (the story goes) purely objective reasons should scale to all participants.

In other words, “Nate just has a feeling” can sound immensely powerful _inside_ the room where it happens, but immensely suspect _outside_ the room.

I would guess in practice a lot of business decisions do in fact made this way, and are mid hoc or post hoc rationalized for broader communication. I do think this can work well though when it’s framed as a a bet -- “Hey team, we plan to put an office in New York -- there’s good reasons for and against but ultimately we’re betting that by investing in this physical presence, we’ll ...”

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Yeah, that's reasonable. This is one that probably went too long and muddied the main point a bit, which wasn't meant to be "make decisions on gut," or even something that close to that. It's more that, especially in the context of wanting to be data driven or whatever, we discount how we feel as not being meaningful. And I think that's the mistake. Nate having a feeling doesn't mean do what Nate says; it means we should welcome Nate telling us about his feeling, because it's probably not random but is in fact based on something just as real as the numbers in our dashboard.

And, per the forth footnote, it's not usually Nate that quantitative favoritism silences, but Natalie. So, I guess the one sentence summary here should've been, if you're gonna try to create a data-driven culture, there's a somewhat hidden downside there, which is it implicitly discounts a lot of valid evidence.

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The longer I've worked the more I'm incorporating more of the signal from my gut / emotions on things. Over the past 2 years at Meltano, every time my gut has sent up a signal about something (good or bad) I've been right about it - it was just a question of when the truth would reveal itself. It definitely takes experience though to parse the feelings and to have the toolkit to investigate and gather more data. The gut is the accuser and the brain gathers the evidence.

To your other point about starting a meeting with feelings - one of the exercises my leadership coach had be try was taking a moment at the start of a meeting to create a human connection and share how I'm showing up to the meeting. So, for example, I might share something like "I'm coming to the meeting with a lot of curiosity about this project. I'm also feeling stressed from this looming deadline. And I'm excited for the weekend b/c of this event with my family." Something like that to see each other as humans first and then we can dive it. Of course there's the immediate concern of performative emotion and less honorable people could take advantage of that vulnerability - so it's not for everyone. But with certain folks it can be a powerful tool for lowering everyone's guard a bit. I don't do it super often, but some days I feel that energy and can sense an openness from other folks that it may go over well.

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There's definitely a fuzzy line there, it's become somewhat of a thing for people to adopt a kind therapy-speak (https://www.npr.org/2023/04/13/1169808361/therapy-speak-is-everywhere-but-it-may-make-us-less-empathetic) that's feels performative (ie, crying layoff guy on linkedin) or proactively defensive (ie, I tell you my emotions, I can't be held responsible for them). I could go either way on if it's good advice for managers though. It makes sense, but also feels easy to abuse or mess up.

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The difference between earnest and performative vulnerability is hard to detect and perhaps shouldn't be attempted when there's a clear power / politic imbalance. It also takes time to get to know someone - I would be wary if on the first day of a job someone came at me with what I proposed. But after a while and when among peers it can be helpful when used appropriately.

After reading through that article I don't think that's level of therapy speak is what I was advocating for. The real intention of what I suggested was just to have a moment of person to person connection before diving into the purpose of a meeting. Particularly in an all remote org it can be helpful to have that check-in. But it's not for everyone :)

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Yeah, I think people have to be really careful there. I know a number of managers who kinda present themselves as their reports' friends, which can go wrong in all sorts of ways (and ultimately, I think it's mostly an insecurity about acknowledging that I'm this person's boss and in charge and responsible and all that). Which, to be clear, was not at all the intent behind the person who was saying he's mad. He wasn't saying that to be vulnerable or build a connection; he was saying it so that they knew what they were doing was making him mad, without him having to get mad at them in other ways.

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But what about the 99% of the market who doesn't have a "leadership coach" as a benefit? What about the 99% of the market who isn't able to ride a wave of VC funding to make layers on top of existing layers and present these as an outcome?

What about the many black people, women, minorities who are actually held accountable to budgets as "Head of Data" or "VP of Engineering" who can't dilly-dally around because they are held accountable for P&Ls and will be fired or punished if they can't meet the goals?

At the end of the day, scuttling data from A to B is not that hard. As a transgender/intersex person I've been punished my whole career when using solutions like Meltano which don't actually get the work done and seem to exist to pad the pockets of founders above providing solutions for customers. Fight me if you want, but that's how thin my margins are.

I've never had a "leadership coach" nor would I want one, to be honest. Most people can't dilly-dally around like this.

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If the point here is substantive, sure, not everyone has leadership coaches. But I don't read what Taylor's saying as telling everyone to get one; he's just sharing what he learned from his. I was never able to get a job at Google; I'd still like to know what people who could learned from being there.

If the point is to attack Taylor for having one, I don't want that here.

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I daresay anyone writing comments on Substack has plenty of dilly dally time

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not really, I just like Benn's writings about his feelings :)

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This post reminds me of the book Thinking Fast and Slow. The book calls the gut/instinctive reactions System 1. System 1 try’s to automatically connect dots and find patterns and trends. The downside of System 1 is it occasionally finds patterns or connections that aren’t really there - hence the reason to question it. My takeaway from the book was to question gut instincts / feelings when it had to do with a patterns or trends I think I see. Thankfully we have data for that - no reason to guess when we can know! I’m also thankful we have instincts to lead us to that data when we wouldn’t have gone there without that feeling.

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Yeah, that makes sense, and I'd guess that's how most data people (me included) roughly operate. And part of the inspiration for this post was I noticed myself going from from "I don't trust my gut" to "I distrust my gut." In the former, we take instincts as something we need to validate; in the latter, we take as biased and by default wrong.

It's a subtle shift, but I think it can be a pretty bad one, because those instincts are sometimes good. And, as you said, the only signal we'll ever get. (It's also a form of gatekeeping and sexism, since it elevates behaviors stereotypically associated with mean and punishes behaviors stereotypically associated with women.)

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Yes! I think gut as not just “wrong by default” is crucial! It’s also crucial to make space for everyone’s feelings on a matter not just the highest paid person in the rooms feelings.

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Agreed (with the one semi-caveat that feelings can mean a lot of things here, and I meant all of this as distinct thing from personal emotions and psychological safety type stuff. Not to say that stuff doesn't matter; it's just a different topic. Gut and instinct probably would've been words for this than emotions and feelings.)

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Yes - all important and related in my mind. Need psychological safety so everyone is willing to share instincts or gut feelings. 😁

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