This is part of a series on the key virtues of excellent Product Ownership.
The Virtue: Collaborativeness
Collaboration is, by definition, the ability to work with someone to produce or create something. This excellence, as I like to describe it to people, is the ability to “delight and inspire” a mix of engineers and artists to empathize with the end user and work together to address their pain. This also requires trusting others to do their job well to the extent of their expertise.
If you slip into a mode where you have too little active participation in building a common understanding with your team, the outcome of their work and the pace at which it is produced will suffer. At the other end of the spectrum, micro-managing and looking over shoulders sends a clear signal of distrust. You might be able to have a nice relationship-building moment sitting with a developer and showing you care what the code does that she is staring at – just don’t overstay your welcome. You have a backlog to manage.
Without getting overly disruptive of other people’s work, be sure to get feedback. Don’t get in people’s faces, but when you are getting coffee and one of your developers comes into the kitchen, it doesn’t hurt to genuinely care about things like: “Do you think I should be sizing any of the stories differently?” Or “Is there anything I can do to make your life easier today?” Somewhere between ignoring people or annoying them lies caring about what you produce together.
What this really requires of you is genuinely caring about the customer, the end user, and the people building the product for you. Don’t care about your product. Genuinely care about whether your developer knows who’s pain is being alleviated and why. If you don’t care, it shows. Why would anyone follow you or stay engaged in their work if you don’t believe in it? Sort that out, then find a balance that builds a great dynamic with the team.