Mimi Coiffait is a specialist sports industry EA and operations manager with over 10 years of experience supporting high profile organizations.
In episode 146 of the podcast, Mimi talks about what it’s like planning high-profile events, staying authentic in a world that can have a lot of “show business” elements, how to not take things personally, and more.
She also tells us about the time she coordinated an event with Michelle Obama, David Beckham, and Spongebob Squarepants. 🙂
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Every time you win, remember next time you could lose. And when you lose, remember next time you can win.
– Simon Sinek
CONNECT WITH MIMI
Mimi Coiffait is currently based outside of Manchester (UK). She started working in professional sports over 10 years ago and has had a wide range of roles; from hospitality, to account management, marketing operations manager, and PA.
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Mimi Coiffait 0:00
Hi, this is Mimi Coiffait, and today’s leadership quote comes from Simon Sinek. Every time you win, remember next time you could lose, and when you lose, remember next time you can win.
Podcast Intro 0:15
The Leader Assistant Podcast exists to encourage and challenge assistance to become confident game changing leader assistants.
Jeremy Burrows 0:26
howdy friends, thank you so much for listening, you can check out the show notes at leaderassistant.com/146. And before we dive in, I will share some information about today’s sponsor with loop and tie giving great gifts is simple. Here’s how it works. You choose a curated collection of stylish artists and made gifts at prices from $10 to $500 per gift. Then your recipients get to choose their own gift from the collection that you send. Go to loopandtie.com and use promo code LEADER ASSISTANT that’s all caps to words LEADER ASSISTANT to get 20% off. And yes, they do ship internationally. So visit loopandtie.com and use the code LEADER ASSISTANT for 20% off. Just know that the discount code expires on December 31. To pay for it friends. Thanks for tuning in to The Leader Assistant Podcast. It’s your host Jeremy Burrows. And today I’m very excited to be speaking with Mini Coiffait. Mimi, how’s it going?
Mimi Coiffait 1:42
Good. Oh, god, yes.
Jeremy Burrows 1:44
Where are you in the world?
Mimi Coiffait 1:47
At the minute, I’m actually in Liverpool. And it’s a very gray, rainy day in Liverpool very cold. But I’m here for an event at the moment. So exciting times.
Jeremy Burrows 1:59
Awesome. And you’ve been in the professional sports industry for over 10 years or so. But why don’t you before we kind of get into your career as an assistant. Why don’t you tell us about your first job? What was your very first job?
Mimi Coifait 2:15
Oh, gosh, that’s taking it way back. So my first job, I actually started, I’ve always worked since I was a teenager, I started in the hospitality industry. So where I’m from, because it’s a little bit out in the countryside, the first job that everyone tends to get will be a poor job or a hotel or something like that. So I worked at hotel as a function waitress doing silver service and lots of events on the on the weekends. And I think it’s working in the hospitality industry. I feel like everyone should do a stint doing those kinds of jobs. Because the amount I learned about being customer facing and teamwork and the importance of processes as well. Yeah, that was my first job a long time ago.
Jeremy Burrows 3:05
Nice. And then how did you end up becoming an assistant.
Mimi Coifait 3:11
So when my first my first job from university, I ended up that actually was as an assistant purely by accident. So when I graduated, it was just coming off the back of the, the recession, and the global recession. And it was a case of I needed to move home or I needed to find any job that I could find. So I My first job was working as an assistant to a consultant psychiatrist in a hospital in Manchester. And that’s something I didn’t do for a particularly long time. After that, I went into sports went into professional football, but then it all came full circle. And then when I did become an assistant, it was in the football industry when I became an assistant again, but several years later, so I went off and did operational and events type roles. And then I returned to it just off the back of so I I worked in professional football. I then moved and worked for a luxury car brand. And this was again in events and operations role. And then somebody actually recommended to me an assistant role that come up at football club at a soccer club. I guess if if I need to translate it through football club for us, not American. No. Well, proper football, English football, so soccer at a soccer club in Manchester. And it wasn’t necessarily something I’d actually thought about because in in football clubs, these type of roles never come up. So most of the leaders that you have in a football club they’ll have a PA who’s been with them for a long time. So it’s very rare that anything like this would have come up, it’s very rare that I would ever look for something like that, because you just don’t see these roles. But when it was recommended, to me, it was very much that they were looking for an assistant who had a strong background in sports, who understood events who could understand the operation side of things, because they wanted someone who could be quite sort of hands on in the row, a person who actually hired me in that role, he’d come from an operations background himself. So it was very much at the forefront of his mind, he wanted an assistant that understood that world. So when, when someone recommended that job to me, I sort of saw definitely the correlation with the different bits of experience that I had. And, and yeah, it was that that particular team is one that I’d always wanted to work for. Because of their their values. They’re very sort of very much a community club. And it was someone who if you’d asked me at any point in my career, about working for them, they absolutely would have been any hand off. So a lot of it was just kind of everything lined up, someone recommended it to me. And it ended up being a fantastic opportunity. And I was there for just over five years in the end.
Jeremy Burrows 6:22
Wow. That’s amazing. So you worked, I’m sure at some very high profile, live events, you know, for world famous sports organizations. And you know, you said you mentioned also you had some event planning experience in your career, too. So I’m sure that was very helpful in working for the football programs. But do you have any fascinating or funny stories in your time with these high profile teams or events?
Mimi Coifait 6:53
There’s a lot of that I couldn’t, couldn’t possibly share. It’s, it’s very much kind of that everything is it, none of it’s quite as glamorous as you would expect. Behind the scenes, everyone works so so hard. And it’s essentially yes, we’re putting on these big events and, and doing things all over the world. But it’s, it’s still that everyone, you know, no matter how big the stage, it’s still the same as doing anything that sort of less high profile, less exciting. One events that I do always like to mention, just because you can’t make this sort of stuff up. One of the events that I got to work on, it was in the build up to the London 2012 Olympics. So the team that I was working for at the time, they were invited to come in, put on activation, and for some children, their local community. And there were there were lots of different organizations there. And Michelle Obama was actually there and her husband was president at the time. And one of the activations we got to do was, we had to set up a penalty shootout between, we had Spongebob Squarepants in Gaul, and Michelle Obama and David Beckham both took a penalty against SpongeBob SquarePants. So that they’re the kind of events that you get asked to do when you work for a football club, that you sort of, you’re not expecting to be asked to do those kinds of events. And that one was really interesting. Because, you know, we had, the event was largely attended by, by local children from from that area of London. But we have, because obviously, it was the first lady there at the time, I remember we had sort of surrounded in the vicinity, you had all her personal security, and there’s quite a lot of them. But they have to make themselves not visible. And I remember my boss at the time saying to me, you know, there are people in the bushes behind us. It’s nothing to worry about. It’s just controlling the event. Don’t turn around, don’t don’t make it obvious that they’re there. We don’t want you know, we don’t want the children to be worried or for anyone to notice it. And the whole time I stood there thinking, I want to just have a look. I know there’s people behind there. But yeah, it all went well. And it was a it was a great event, but just such a random thing to be asked to do. It’s all good fun.
Jeremy Burrows 9:21
Awesome. Yeah. It’s I like what you said about you know, it’s not all glamour behind the scenes. I mean, it’s similar to small company in the middle of nowhere, where the assistants working hard with the executive and supporting the team and
Mimi Coifait 9:40
it’s all the same things, all the same things.
Jeremy Burrows 9:44
So, okay, so how did you stay authentic? In a world that can sometimes have a lot of, you know, show business and put, you know, putting on a show and whatever, how did you kind of maintain that authenticity? and balance because I know that it can be difficult at times, especially for someone like me who’s an introvert, I, you know, go to these events or speak at these conferences, and you’re going to kind of put on your extroverted hat and and, you know, smile and be friendly and whatever. How did you? How did you handle that, in that kind of world, high profile world?
Mimi Coifait 10:28
I think it’s, it’s probably the same in professional sport as a lot of sort of high profile or just fast paced industries is, it’s very much about to those who much is given much as expected, you get to do these fantastic, engaging, challenging things. But you’re found out very quickly, if you’re not just focusing on what it is you have to do. So if you were, you know, if people were trying to get into, you know, being in this environment, because they wanted to be around certain players, or certain managers, or certain personalities just to be seen there, or just, you know, just just to be there for the sort of hype, I think it would be obvious straightaway, I think everybody has to be focused and working towards the same goals. And I think this is what I think is quite unique about football. So soccer. So and it’s probably the same in any sport is that the way that we would all know what is expected of, of players when they’re on the field about how they need to work cohesively in a team about how they need to not take it personally, if someone else has got centerstage, or being given a specific responsibility, about being able to sort of stay focused, to have stamina, and just be able to maintain momentum, work under pressure, all those sorts of things, everything that we would all know as general knowledge, will be expected from players and athletes is very much expected of the staff who are around them as well. So I think, you know, to go back to the question of how to stay authentic, it’s about just reminding ourselves that we’re all just people doing things. It’s, you know, the captain of the team, the manager, that, or the staff doing things behind the scenes, we’re all just people doing things. So as long as we’re focusing on, how do we work cohesively? How do we continue to grow? How do we continue to be efficient, then whoever you are, is in terms of your personality, and what you bring to the table, I would expect that you’ve been hired to be compatible with the people around you. So in my career, certainly, there’s always been space to be who you are. It might be that you’re an introvert or an extrovert, but it’s sort of not massively relevant. It’s about how everyone performs when they’re together. I remember, one of our team psychologists said to me when I was quite new to a role, and she was explaining to me that, essentially, where you go to recharge your batteries and rejuvenate, that’s how you know if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, because I couldn’t have told you which one of those I was because I think I slipped between the two. But she said, essentially, when you feel like, you need to top yourself up, do you want to be around other people? I know, definitely. You know, if I look at one of my brothers, when he needs to mind, he’ll go to the pub, or he’ll go and see his friends and do something. Whereas me personally, I know when I just need to recenter myself that I want to be on my own. And I need to just collect myself within my own shell. And I think that’s something as long as we’re working cohesively as a team. I think there’s there’s always space for everyone to be exactly who they are. I think that’s credit to some of the organizations and some of the leaders I’ve worked for, but also to the way sport itself is set up as an industry, that you can have that space to just be who you are. And as long as you’re showing up, you’re doing the work, you’re bringing you growth mindset, and you’re not taking things personally, then there is space for everyone to thrive and to be who they are the same way that players on the pitch. They’re all different personalities with different strengths and different things that they bring to the table.
Jeremy Burrows 14:33
Awesome, love it. So how do you not take things personally what helps you in that area?
Mimi Coifait 14:43
This this is definitely something I have to be honest. This is something I’ve learned through my career. Certainly in the early days of my career, when I didn’t realize at the time, but when I look back on it, I probably didn’t have that skill to start off with. It’s been very much from feedback. So again, I have to credit some of the leaders I’ve I’ve had around me who’ve, when I have been given feedback that, you know, maybe they, I could have handled something better could have handled something differently could have phrased something differently, or, you know, it’s I’ve never been given really sort of strong critical feedback. But there have been times where I’ve been pulled aside and, and told, you know, someone wasn’t happy with the way I’d done something. I think it comes from that trust of my old boss used to call it having psychological safety. So again, it’s it’s part of the culture, if you’re in a culture where everybody feels like they have that psychological safety, and the trust in each other, that if my boss, or even in times when it’s when I’ve had sort of challenges or feedback come from colleagues, if you have that trust that they’re not out to get you, they’re not out to cause a problem, like thinking about it rationally. Everyone is in that organization is in that project team is, is working with you, they all just want it to do well, you know, there’s no rational reason why anybody around you is going to want anything you’re working on or collaborating on not to do well. So it’s about I guess, having that level head, and having that culture and trust in the people around you. That if someone’s giving you some feedback, or you know, asking you to do something differently, or even if they’re saying, you know, one of the hardest ones I’ve always found is I’ve always been an environment where everyone can sort of have ideas, and everyone’s got a seat at the table. But maybe if you’re if you’ve suggested something, and a few suggestions have come about, and then they go with someone else’s suggestion, I think it’s about having that awareness that it’s, it’s not about you, it’s about the idea. And it’s about whether this idea, or this way of approaching things is gonna fly or not, or whether it’s the right time for it, or whether it’s the right fit for it. So I think it’s a lot about having that, that trust, to not take things personally that, that everyone’s working towards the same thing. But also, I think it’s important, I know you, you touch on it in, in your book, when you you say about, you know, making sure you’re practicing that self care. Actually, part of that, for me, self care, as well as nourishing yourself is making sure you dedicate that time to growing yourself and developing yourself. So doing that personal development, and making sure that you’re always bolstering your confidence and, and the way that you look at the world and the way that you interact with people. I think that is also important as well to not take things personally. Because even even times where, you know, not everyone who meets you is going to like you, but even when there are times where someone specifically where it might be about you that you rub someone the wrong way or, or the way that you operate rubs someone up the wrong way. Even in those times, there is always a learning in there, even in the worst possible feedback or where someone has got personal with you. The way to not take it personally is to say, you know, it’s it’s about the things that we’re doing. And I do believe that there’s always a grain of truth, even in the worst possible feedback. So it could be that something you’ve done has left room for something to be misinterpreted or, or you’ve not shared enough information to fully paint the picture to that as then allowed someone to turn it into something negative, which isn’t your responsibility. But I do always believe, you know, there’s there’s a learning in there with every single possible thing, but you can’t take it personally. Because it’s about what is it we’re doing, what we’re trying to do? Or if it comes to it. How is this broken down?
Jeremy Burrows 19:01
Yeah, well said. Very well said thanks for sharing. How do you feel kind of a little bit related to that? How do you focus on caring about people sets? So there’s, there’s a balance between don’t take take things personally, it’s about we’re all here together to get this stuff done and to get this to meet our goals. But how do you also care about people versus just checking things off the list or making it too much about, you know, the tasks at hand?
Mimi Coifait 19:35
I think it’s about it’s, you know, the thread running through everything I’m saying is that just keeping that awareness that we’re all just people doing things, everyone has their own their own concerns, their own things that need to get done. And sometimes it’s on a practical level. It’s just thinking about, okay, someone’s asking for something from me. And looking at all the different things you have to do actually, on a practical level, sometimes all they might need from you is to say yes or no to something, or to give them a piece of information. And then they can get on with what they’re doing. So I think it’s about on a practical level, having that recognition that everybody has the things that need to get done, and actually, in taking someone else’s things off first, and then allowing them to continue moving forward with it, is that going to derail your workload, your time, your priorities, and if it’s not, that’s something I always try and spot first is on a practical level, how I can help people. And then on a sort of more of general level, I think just, again, understanding that it’s, there are human beings behind every request behind every transaction. And always, I think as, as assistants, you’re in that privileged position where, yes, you’re able to sit on the shoulder of a leader, and sort of have that strategic overview of where they’re going and what they’re trying to do. But also, what you have that your leader might not necessarily have sight of, is you, you have those interactions with your colleagues, with the people around you, you see the journeys that they go on, you see. So I think as assistants, it’s been able to, to sort of pay attention, I guess, because I think I always say this is one of my sort of lines that I find myself saying a lot is assistants, I feel like we all have this superpower of being able to switch from high level strategic view, which is what sort of at the the leadership team and an organization would use. But then we can instantly switch to detail view, to spot in the Details to see and if somebody’s not okay, to see and if something’s been missed. And I think in being able to do that with your colleagues around you, and not even necessarily revealing the sort of strategic, high level things that you know, but if you’re aware of it, using that knowledge, see if you know that there’s a change coming, or you know, that a person is about to be asked to do something or work in a certain way, in your interactions with them. If you’re aware of that, there are always little things you can do. There are always ideas of seeds that you can plan. And there’s always sort of smaller touch points that you can have to be able to just just keep an eye out for people. Because I think once we understand that we’re all there, trying to do the things that are going to get us where we need to be and get our things done and make us fulfilled once you understand that, that applies across the board, whether people are being when you know whether it’s a positive interaction with you or a negative, if you can always keep sight of the fact that that person is trying to achieve these things in their context. That is whatever it is. And I think as long as you understand that, and you understand that about yourself and everything you’re trying to do that, that helps you I think to be able to protect your bubble, to do what you need to do for your executive, your leadership team, but also to be as helpful and positive in your interactions with the people around you as well.
Jeremy Burrows 23:10
Well, third, love it. I’m just sitting here soaking it all in me. So thank you. So maybe what makes an assistant, a leader?
Mimi Coifait 23:27
I would say, always knowing what to do is what makes an assistant a leader. And I feel like this is the thing that wherever you are, whoever you’re around, whether you’re dealing with, you know, people more senior at their business, or your colleagues or whoever it is, the assistant is always the person they look to. And they just assume that you’ll always know what to do. And I think part of it is, as an assistant, always been able to give the impression that you know what to do even if you don’t. But I think what what can make an assistant in what makes this isn’t a leader is having that sort of presence of being reassurance to everyone around them being reassuring. So knowing, you know, it might be if someone’s asking you difficult questions that you’re not at liberty to discuss being able to handle that situation and have a conversation so that so that the people who you’re talking to don’t feel like they’re being shut out, or they’re being sort of fobbed off in any way. And I think knowing where very often if something changes quickly, or there’s an emergency, or something just needs to happen at the drop of a hat. Very often. It’s the assistant that people look to say, Can you fix this, can you get this? Can you find this? Can you find this person? Can you you know, make this happen? And I think as the assistant just being someone who’s good at life, someone who knows how How to not show panic on the face. If indeed that is what you’re feeling, or someone who is, you know, you’re very easy, very able to flex and just if the plans change, you just roll with it, and you just know what to do. And you know, who needs to be notified, and you understand your processes so that you can make things happen without causing problems further down the line, so that you can have the right records the right paper trail, and you can make the appropriate decisions. So I think being an assistant definitely know what to do with, with people with processes with situations, I think that’s another one of our superpowers is just being able to be that safe pair of hands, or give input when it’s appropriate. And I guess yeah, just knowing what’s appropriate as well, what the appropriate ways to respond to a situation, and when to get involved and when not to get involved. And I think it’s so powerful being able to do that. And that’s the time where people will look to you as the leader, because it might be that you’re leading by example. It might be that you’re giving some advice, or it might just be that you’re, you’re getting on with it and putting everything in place so that other people can do what they need to do. But the fact that you already know without being told, that’s what makes you a leader, because you keep things ticking on you keep things moving. You keep things agile, without someone having to give you that instruction.
Jeremy Burrows 26:30
Yeah, yeah, I love it leader, a leader assistants, someone who just knows what to do, and what’s appropriate and how to handle things. So yeah, well said Well said, Well, maybe, is there anything else that you wanted to kind of wrap our conversation up with like anything you want to say to assistants all over the world listening right now.
Mimi Coifait 26:53
Just I guess, don’t forget your value. Because especially now, especially with the way in the last couple of years, the world has changed and evolved, especially business and the way that people work in so many different ways. And from people I know, and things I’ve seen, more and more the role is, is about being able to bring in different areas of expertise and, and pick up in that area and try this other thing and support this department. So I guess just it’s, it’s a really exciting time to be to be in this kind of role. Because there’s so many different things we can do, that I found in my career that is being an event manager and Operations Manager is very much interchangeable with being an assistant. So I just think, you know, as much as possible for everyone to remember what they bring to the table and as assistants just how valuable we are in joining everything up.
Jeremy Burrows 27:53
Yes, we are definitely the key to an organization’s success and executive success. So yes, I agree. So all right. Well, Mimi, thank you so much for being on the show. Is there anything or any way that people can reach out and connect with you? If they want to say Hi, and thank you for being on the show.
Mimi Coifait 28:16
I’m quite easy to find on LinkedIn. As I understand it, there’s only one Mimi Coiffait on the planet. So if you look me up and spell it correctly, you’ll definitely get me. I’m not particularly visible or visible on any social platforms. I’m not the best at that. So definitely LinkedIn is the place if anyone wants to say hello.
Jeremy Burrows 28:38
Perfect. And I will put that in the show notes so that people don’t have to worry too much about spelling it right.
Mimi Coifait 28:46
to spell my name.
Jeremy Burrows 28:48
And yeah, I appreciate it again. Best of luck to you. And hopefully, someday we can meet in person I was supposed to go to London right before COVID. And you know, of course we all know how that went but hopefully someday I’ll make it to that side of the world.
Mimi Coifait 29:06
Absolutely. That’d be great.
Jeremy Burrows 29:09
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