Leadership Interview

Michael Hopkin grew up in Utah and worked as a software engineer. Read on to learn more about why he is interested in leadership and what the key to effective communication is.

Thanks for doing this interview! Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today – where you’re from, your educational and/or work background?

I was raised on a cattle ranch near a small town in northern Utah. From a young age, I learned the importance of setting goals and working hard to achieve them. While getting a degree in Accounting, I fell in love with computers and software. After college, I worked as a software engineer for five years.

By that point, I’d grown very interested in software product management. When an opportunity came, I took it. I was thrilled to be back on the “business side” (as opposed to the technical) but in a position where I worked with technical people and built technical products.

What made you interested in leadership?

With a few years of product management under my belt, I honed in on the importance of leading people who do not report to you. As a PM, you are dependent on the software engineers, salespeople, marketers, and others for the success of your product. To motivate these people to make your product a success, you have to lead.

What do you believe is the key to effective communication with your team?

Listening—to their ideas and concerns, and working with them to remove the roadblocks.

How do you keep people motivated despite obstacles or setbacks?

Share the vision of what we’re doing, help them understand their role in our success, and inspiring them to give it everything they’ve got.

Which mistake do you believe leaders make most often, and how could they avoid it?

Not listening, and thinking they know all the answers. The best way to avoid this problem is to be humble.

What do you believe is a quality that a leader should try to eliminate from their team?

Lack of communication. When you have team members who are doing their thing and not communicating with the team, it usually leads to problems.

Is there a particular well-known leader or company that you find inspiring? If so, why?

Former Costco CEO James Sinegal. He was the ultimate servant leader who focused on his people first, then the customers, then the shareholders. It’s the way every company should work.

Are there any specific apps, tools or software that you use for productivity/communication?

Evernote, to keep track of everything I do. Slack, to communicate with my teams. Email and calendaring software to keep track of my work and communication.

How do you resolve conflict within your team?

It ultimately depends on the situation. But I start by getting people together, talking through the issues, getting to the root of the problem and guiding them to come up with a resolution.

What advice would you give to upcoming leaders?

Be learners. “Learners inherit the future, while the learned find themselves equipped to work in a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

What are your interests and hobbies?

Running (I run half marathons fairly often), ballroom dance (my son is an accomplished dancer), hiking, riding horses (I go back to the ranch as often as I can), spending time with my family.

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Michael Hopkin
Michael is an internationally recognized strategist in leadership and technology product management. He trains product managers to lead effectively with confidence, optimism and enthusiasm. You can follow him on Twitter and at Lead on Purpose.
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