MANILA, Philippines – A defeat brings out the best or worst in a business person.
In the case of food and beverage consultant Celina Le Neindre, hearing AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes say “You are fired!” was initially gutting. She later marked the event as a turning point for her to assess her strengths, weaknesses, and future strategy.
At a viewing party in a Makati bar on Wednesday night, July 3, the 30-year-old bet from Davao was with friends, AirAsia executives, journalists, and bloggers to watch the episode of business reality show Apprentice Asia, where Fernandes decided to boot her out after her team lost a fashion-related task.
The half-French-half-Filipina beauty admitted she shed a tear or two as she relived the experience of being kicked out from the TV show after the 7th episode in which she thought she would stand out.
She thought her past designing and modeling experiences would come handy when her teammates were rolling out the task to design new uniforms for the staff and crew of Fernandes’ Malaysia-headquartered budget airline.
She said the lessons were not just from doing the tasks in the past episodes, but about how goal-oriented people like her strategize to stay in the game.
“I love the process and I changed so much. For me, I’d do it all over again. I’m recommeding it to everyone who want to learn everything in one go,” she shared.
Jonathan Allen Yabut, 27, is the only remaining Filipino bet in the show.
While Le Neindre will no longer be in the running to be the winner of the pioneering Asian edition of what is considered “the world’s toughest job interview,” she shared insights from the process that anyone in the business world can take to heart.
Leadership and accountability
She shared that leaders should provide guidance to their team members and not just let them be. After all, the buck stops with them.
She was specifically referring to China’s Alexis Lothar Bauduin, an Asia-Pacific director in a liquor company, who was the project manager of the task where Team Apex lost. Team Apex was composed of Baudin, Le Neindre, and IT infrastructure executive Samuel Rufus Nallaraj from India.
“I praised him and told him that I really appreciate him letting me work,” the only female in the 3-person team said.
Le Neindre’s designs were criticized for being impractical. For example, she chose a white top for the cabin crew, which Apprentice Asia advisor and Expedia Asia CEO Kathleen Tan said did not consider that flight stewards serve food and drinks in the cabin.
“If I failed as a creative director, in the end siya pa rin ang may blame (Bauduin is still to blame),” she said. “You don’t have to control people, you have to guide them.”
“He gave me the leeway, which means as a leader, you trusted your teammates too much. [But the failure of the team] will still go back to the leader. It has to be guided. So that’s why when I was project manager, I always guide my teammates’ creativity because that’s my job as the leader.”
Bauduin was a tactical player. Instead of responding to Le Neindre’s charge about his lack of leadership, he countered by telling Fernandes that she deserved to be fired due to her lack of social skills.
“He didn’t throw it (lack of leadership) back to me. Instead he attacked me. He knew it was easier to take down Sam than me,” he said, referring to Bauduin’s boardroom strategy. It was the typical dog-eat-dog business that led Bauduin to try to save himself from being fired by putting her out in the open, she said.
Bauduin was taking off from the previous observation of the show’s advisor Kathleen Tan that Le Neindre can come off as insincere and mechanical. Tan was referring to how Le Neindre attended to hotel guests in the previous task that involved running the Hilton Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The team also lost that task despite Le Neindre’s expertise in the hotel business.
“If I’m nervous, I still keep doing what I have to do despite being nervous. Otherwise I’ll be all over the place. I think my being nervous comes off as insincere. I think in the end people don’t really understand that.”
Controlling her emotions was something she said she developed while living in different countries, from Europe to Africa, or wherever her hotelier father was assigned.
“It’s very hard for me to play this poker face game while everyone is against each other. People who have known me for a longer time know I cannot lie because it shows on my face and I think that’s where the insincerity comes from,” she said.
Stand out, but work with others
Lacking in social skills, as Bauduin pointed out, was a perception about Le Neindre that other contestants and Apprentice Asia followers also shared.
“I’m a very tough competitor because I work very hard for what I do. If I stepped on anyone’s toes, it was purely incidental. I did not mean it,” she said.
She said the way she presents herself and being a perfectionist may have rubbed people the wrong way. “It’s very hard when someone sees someone who looks good, dresses well, likes to wear make up, good talker, intelligent, and well-traveled.”
“Maybe my lesson is to mute down my personality a bit,” she admitted.
Le Neindre can add these to her life experiences. She shared she has worked her way to the top, getting valuable experiences in kitchen, housekeeping, reception, banqueting, sales and public relations services, among others.
Despite the setback, Le Neindre said, “I always come back stronger.” – Rappler.com