Whether you love him or hate him, one thing is for sure: Simon Cowell has successfully created a multibillion-dollar empire based on his brash, straight talk as a media personality. Maybe it's because you love him or hate him.
In addition to having a golden touch for discovering, molding and marketing some top-selling pop sensations including Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson, Cowell has honed the art of passing blunt judgment on the thousands of hopefuls who cross his path every year.
I wish there were similar personalities who were female -- some Simone Cowells -- especially in the business world.
Having at least a few would better support the success of female-led startups. And considering that women control more than half the investment wealth in America, not having those voices is a loss.
As a young entrepreneur myself, I have experienced too many times when female colleagues failed to dish it to me straight when I consulted them about my business ideas or when they kept blunt feedback hidden behind a smile.
The mistake made by so many women is this: confusing empowering women in business with pacifying female entrepreneurs. Or thinking that they are helping other women by being blindly positive and supportive when sometimes what’s really best is a blunt “That was really awful.”
Simon Cowell wouldn’t hesitate.
Here are four reasons why women's hesitation to impart Cowell-esque feedback hurts:
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1. No one's going to improve unless she's told something sucks.
When I was first starting my business, I pitched to some female angel groups for months. Even though I got great feedback, no women were putting out money to match their mouths. It was so confusing.
Finally a male angel was blunt and told me that my business model was too complicated. So I simplified it and in two weeks entered the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator.
I needed an honest assessment to improve my business plan and presentation.
2. Directness is helpful to women entrepreneurs.
Women are building vibrant and layered entrepreneurship and business eco-systems, including peer-advisory groups and women-in-business meetups and accelerators.
One of the ways these communities pay off is by sharing authentically and providing honest feedback. Most businesswomen don’t need coddling. They need help with the mechanics of getting ahead, even when the advice is hard to hear.
3. A "bossy girl" is better than a "mean girl."
Too many times, I’ve been pitching an idea in a boardroom and just see women executives jsut flashing their pearly whites but doing not much else. I’m sure they were worried that they would be seen as “bossy” (or worse) if they spoke up.
But being bossy by speaking up in the boardroom is much better and far more helpful than exhibiting "mean girl syndrome," talking behind other women’s backs. Not only is it unacceptable playground behavior. It’s ineffective and unproductive in the business world, too.
If you’re at the board table, there’s a good reason: So share your views. Let me and other entrepreneurs hear what you think. Maybe I'll provide an answer or improve.
4. Give thoughtful feedback from a place of empathy.
Some women -- even businesswomen -- are good listeners and empathetic, which Belinda Parmar, author of The Empathy Era, has said, drives profit.
Once thought of as a fluffy soft skill, empathy is paving the way for building meaningful relationships -- and profitable empires.
Other women business leaders -- along with everyone else -- need to hear such advice and constructive comments more often, not less.