A Strange Sense of Obligation

I close my Apple Watch rings every day. Yes, there are misses here and there, but I have been consistent since I got my first Apple Watch back in late 2018. Some days, I wish I could just leave the watch behind.

My work life is a smattering of leadership and operations work. I head a small team and I delegate what I can, but there will never be a time when I am completely without operational baggage from my past. Working on items of interest never feels like a chore, but the things that bring me back to systems or services I have effectively sloughed off start to feel like a forgotten monster rearing its ugly head.

I worked on a task the other day and realized (in my two question flowchart) that I was the only person who knew how to do this thing and the only person who could do it in that moment. But what struck me this time (differently from the last time 🙄) is that I had a sense of obligation to the work. Just like my Apple Watch, ownership of a behavior dies hard and requires foresight and intentionality.

In this particular situation, I would have had to rely on foresight to prepare for the handing over of ownership; foresight that would have had to come from an assumption of another person (external to my unit) not doing their job. Admittedly, I assume (sometimes wrongly and perhaps too frequently) that people will do their job.

The reason I started with Apple Watch is the recognition of odd transition points in the building of a behavior:

  1. Excitement and motivation at the start
  2. Pushing past the chore aspects, forming a true habit
  3. Transitioning into a behavior, identity, or culture
  4. Checking assumptions and refreshing the approach, as necessary

A leader should be approaching each transition point as a potential exit opportunity as well. If the excitement wears off and there is no motivation to power through to form a habit, perhaps there are other strategies that can be used instead. If the behavior becomes detrimental to some new circumstance, a reassessment of the approach is in order.

The new Apple Watch models look nice and would be a big upgrade from the Series 3 on my wrist, but if the behavior and identity I have created around the watch is now only obligatory, I should be able to make the decision to leave it behind, to move forward to something new within a new context. So too if tasks and behaviors do not fit within new work structures and circumstances, I should be seeking ways to shift, change, or otherwise remove it.




In 2022, I am participating in two leadership training programs. This should be a social experience, so I am writing about it. Check out the full list of posts in the series here.

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