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B-school GD: 9 personality traits, evaluated

Brijesh Singh, Arun Mittal
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February 05, 2007

In our present knowledge economy, one's personality is crucial for success.

B-schools evaluate students on personality ethics in the second stage of their selection process commonly known as the 'Personality Assessment' phase.

Personality means different things to different people in different situations. This article tries to capture what personality assessment means to a top B-school Group Discussion panel.

Let's start with the definition of Group Discussion. A GD at a B-school can be defined as a formal discussion involving 10-12 participants in a group. A topic is given to them, with some time to collect their thoughts, and the group is then asked to discuss the topic for 20-25 minutes.

Here are a few of the most important personality traits a candidate should possess to do well at a GD.

Team spirit

A GD is the most powerful tool to evaluate a person's team skills. Team skills are important simply because, in the present knowledge economy, it is very essential for a manager to be a team player. A manager will always work in teams. In the beginning of his career, a manager works as a team member and, later on, as a team leader.

Leadership

A GD can go through any one of the following three situations:

1. Participants were not able to establish a proper rapport and do not speak much.

2. Participants get emotionally attached to the topic and become aggressive.

3. Participants discuss the topic calmly, touching upon all nuances, and try to reach a conclusion.

A leader is a person who facilitates the third type of situation in a GD. A leader shows the group direction, whenever it moves away from the topic. He or she inspires and motivates team members to express their views and also coordinates the effort of different participants.

Flexibility

This means openness to another person's ideas and also being open to the evaluation of one's own ideas. To stay flexible in a group discussion, try to create a framework and avoid taking a stand in the beginning.

For instance, if the topic is 'Should India go to war with Pakistan?', some participants may get emotionally attached to the topic and take a stand.

But, by taking a stand, a person has reached a conclusion, even without discussing the topic at hand or listening to the views of his or her team members.

Moreover, if a person who has taken a stand faces a very strong point against his point at the 11th hour, he is in a typical Catch 22 situation.

1. If he changes the stand, he is seen as a fickle-minded or whimsical person.

2. If he does not change his stand, he is seen as inflexible, stubborn and obstinate.

Flexibility is an important personality trait. A person who is flexible will have less sharp corners in his personality and his friction with people around will also be less.

Assertiveness

Being assertive is all about being positive, confident and emphatic. An assertive person has an inherent ability to put his point across the group in a friendly and confident manner. His body language is positive and he has a friendly disposition towards fellow group members.

Initiative

Initiating a group discussion is a double-edged sword. It can make or mar your performance rating. Starting well has huge benefits, but even the slightest mistake in the beginning gets highlighted and puts one in a bad light. So, initiate only if one is well versed with the topic and is confident enough to take a lead by showing the group some direction.

Creativity/Out of the box thinking

An idea or perspective that opens new horizons for a discussion on the topic is highly appreciated in a GD. For example, while conducting a GD on the 'US invasion on Iraq', a participant once came out with an innovative point related to the theory of 'Euro vs. Dollar'.

It was put across very convincingly and discussed at length by the group.

At another GD on 'Men can cook better than women', a participant added a new dimension by bringing in a fresh perspective like 'Cooking is not only about food. I know men can cook better lies than women.' Fresh ideas are always appreciated.

Inspiring ability

A good group discussion should incorporate the views of all team members. If some members want to express their ideas but are not getting an opportunity to do so, giving them an opportunity will be seen as a positive leadership trait.

Listening

This is a very important skill. It is said that humans have been gifted with two ears and one mouth. Apart from being a good listener, there should be a balance between the expression of your ideas and imbibing the ideas of others.

Awareness

In today's dynamic environment, a manager should be well versed with both the micro and macro environments. Your awareness about your environment helps a lot in your GD content, which carries maximum weight.

Apart from these qualities, communication skills, confidence and the ability to think on one's feet are also very important.

-- Arun Mittal is DGM, South and West, Career Launcher India Ltd, which prepares students for exams like GRE, CAT, GMAT, etc. He can be reached at arun.mittal@careerlauncher.com

Brijesh Singh is City Business Head, Bangalore, Career Launcher India Ltd and an alumnus of Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. He can be reached at brijesh.singh@careerlauncher.com




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