How to ensure a successful handover when a manager retires – Anne-Laure Pams





When do managers need an offboarding process? For someone who has been committed – perhaps overly so – to developing their company for several decades, retirement constitutes a sensitive transition period. Most managers go through different stages – more or less consciously – the closer they get to the big day. A sense of flight, for example, may be followed by a rebound in energy which, in turn, can give way to simply letting go. While sometimes not clearly in evidence, their discomfort is nevertheless damaging. Realisation will start to sink in that retirement means they will no longer be ‘in the spotlight’. And yet the need for recognition and the desire to be impactful are often what provide managers with their source of mental strength.




To compensate for this loss, the most enlightened managers will make plans to take on company directorships or throw themselves wholeheartedly into their own personal projects. But for those who don’t, this emotional roller coaster constitutes one of the most dysfunctional behaviours possible for the company, especially for the team who will be remaining in place and who have no other option but to contend with their manager’s discomfort. It is not unusual, for example, that some outgoing managers are unable to cope with the idea of the company continuing without them. In the most extreme cases, they can even behave irrationally: their ego bruised, a retiring manager may unconsciously sabotage their successor in an effort to assert their authority one last time before making their final exit.

This strategic issue, largely concealed by the company, must then be handled by the HR department or even the general office staff. At the very least, they are expected to alert the manager and suggest to them that they focus not only on the handing over of their position but also on their own personal transition.




When retirement cannot be envisaged as a happy prospect but, rather, is a source of internal turmoil, then a support structure is needed. Implementing a plan for succession within a company is a first step from an organisational point of view, but it does not help the manager in question come out of denial. Because, at this point, they will be questioning their entire identity, not to mention their place in an environment where they have no decision-making powers. Coaching will offer them the individual support structure that they need. This option allows them not only to accept the transition but to prepare it and safeguard it. The future retiree will have the opportunity to reflect on their new role going forward, the steps they want to take to continue creating value and the legacy they want to leave behind when it is time to say goodbye…

Given proper support – provided by good partners a year, or even two, in advance – the retiring manager will be able to turn their departure into a constructive changeover, transitioning more gradually and hence less ‘violently’. A company with the foresight to prepare for its manager’s retirement ahead of time and, therefore, to avoid potential disruptions, will also have everything to gain from this support structure.

Article by Anne-Laure Pams, Director at Grant Alexander – Leadership Development, Executive Coach, Co-president of the Coaching Commission of Syntec Conseil. 

Appraisals: a means of developing talent or crushing it? – Anne-Laure Pams

Performance appraisals in the business world


Used for the first time during the first world war, performance appraisals became a widespread tool in the business world in the early 1980s.

‘Patronising’, ‘disrespectful’, ‘humiliating’… You feel a shiver go down your spine as you listen to how some senior managers describe their experience of appraisals. Veritable poor sibling of HR consulting, it is a practice that is bound by no rules. There is no ethics charter to provide a framework for the work of HR consultants claiming to be appraisers. No regulatory body to put a stop to their artisanal, or perhaps even questionable, methods. And no training to establish a common ethical foundation. And the problem is that companies, both large and small, have made massive use of assessment since the Covid-19 crisis forced them to reallocate their resources. In the most extreme cases, the process is rather like a ‘talent-crushing machine’: senior managers must willingly pit themselves against difficulties during their appraisals, which essentially hark back to the recruitment interviews of 20 years ago, when destabilisation was the primary goal.


What is a ‘good’ appraisal?


As happened with coaching several years ago, appraising, as a practice, requires urgent regulation if companies are to successfully retain their talent. Employers’ unions, HR associations and the players in HR consulting must step up and provide the structure for this practice, which is certainly not a new one. In the meantime, companies must tread very carefully when they plan to use appraisals as a means of talent development. Getting a clear explanation of the entire process is a good place to start. Questioning the objectivity of the assessment is another. Because, contrary to what we see in the market, a good appraisal requires more than simply putting a manager on the spot in a single exercise or conducting just one interview. Any appraisal must be multi-dimensional; in other words, it must involve several people, such as a coach, a consultant and perhaps an industry or sector expert. Psychometric tests should be part of the process for the assessment to be as objective as possible.

The process should comprise several steps that should include at least two interviews, possibly a simulation and, absolutely, another interview to go over the results of the psychometric tests. The process should examine both the senior manager’s professional skills and his or her personality. As for the findings, certain safeguards are necessary. It is important to bear in mind that an appraisal should serve as a basis for reflection taken in context with any other information gathered about the person being appraised. As such, findings should be drafted in hypothetical verbiage as opposed to being indelibly stamped on the appraisee’s career path.


A demanding but compassionate attitude


Appraisals are often a crucial step in a senior manager’s career, so it is even more important to ensure that good standards are applied when conducting them. This, therefore, places considerable responsibility on the HR consultancies and recruitment agencies operating in the field today. They have the careers of these men and women in their hands. Consequently, their approach to the appraisals must be irreproachable. Their attitude must be demanding, but always compassionate.

Of course, their role is to pick up on shortcomings, but they must also be respectful of the person they are appraising. At the height of the talent war, when companies need to be increasingly mindful of their teams, mistreating them or shaking their confidence by putting them through a sloppy and unscrupulous appraisal is unlikely to be a recipe for success. Quite the contrary… The responsibility lies with you to ensure that your appraisal process is a good one, providing your talent with a strong incentive to remain in your organisation.

Article by Anne-Laure Pams, Director at Grant Alexander – Leadership Development, Executive Coach, Co-president of the Coaching Commission of Syntec Conseil. 

The art of managing – What makes an inspiring manager?

The borderline between management and command : aspects that allow us to optimise managerial performance.


Olivier Lajous is a consultant and speaker who served in the Navy for 38 years. On the strength of his career, in which commitment, trust, courage and humility all contribute to success, he supports companies and tells teams about the keys to high-performing individuals and organisations. We interviewed him and Henri Vidalinc, Chairman of Grant Alexander, and discussed what makes good managers.


What led each of you, in your own way, to take an interest in managerial performance?


I started off as a simple sailor and ended up as an admiral and naval officer and during my career I was able to observe different ways of giving orders in environments that were sometimes hostile and conditions in which discipline was very important. All the most notable leaders had something inspiring about them – just the right presence, just the right tone and natural authority. I became convinced that success can only be achieved by working as a team and through managerial performance.


Before becoming involved in HR consultancy, I worked for various companies and encountered many managers and often asked myself what gives them their legitimacy in this role. Good managers make teams want to follow them. The presence of a good manager transcends codes. It is like an aura that is emanated and projected regardless of the physical dimension. Differences need to be cultivated. The question is can these characteristics be developed.


To what extent is this innate or acquired do you think?


All individuals have to co-exist with other people. Obviously, the notion of the innate counts – people’s natures are the result of genetic and environmental factors. But the fact we can acquire characteristics means we have many opportunities to surpass ourselves. Others drive change and encourage progress. The more we are confronted with Others and otherness, the more we enter a process of construction and achievement, becoming able to accommodate differences, change our habits, live in a community, practice high-performance sports, deal with extreme environments (seas, mountains, tropical rainforests) etc. Self-confidence is developed through experiences and challenges, not only through commands.


We have to show a certain humility if we want to learn. Opening up to the experience of others allows us to develop better self-awareness. As we become familiar with our strengths and weaknesses, we learn how to make progress. It is important that we feel we can master our own destiny. When we are aware of our weaknesses, we can seek the skills and resources we need. A good manager should also be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each team member.


Are there similarities between commanding and managing?


Managing and commanding are in fact two facets of the same activity – the art of managing – and are implemented according to time-frames. When there are no operational urgencies, we manage. And we can command naturally after we have managed. The legitimacy of commanding in the heat of the action (saying which direction to take) is the natural result of good management when we take the time to discuss matters (approaching others). In all cases, this depends on natural authority, i.e. a subtle blend of soft skills, know-how, the ability to get things done and to convey messages in order to share experience and inspire people.


The notion of preparation is fundamental. Natural authority must be accompanied by skills-based authority that establishes credibility. The good news is that both can be developed. A good manager must have both charisma and substance to be able to endure over time. There are people with knowledge: diplomas, apprenticeships, experience, understanding of jobs and codes, and people who show us what to do and explain why we do it. At Grant Alexander, we believe that over and above professional skills and personality, we can measure and develop mental abilities that are conducive to success (self-confidence, self-awareness, team-awareness, capacity for concentration, control of our emotions, our environment, determination, etc.). This is our Athlete Thinking philosophy.


How is natural authority asserted in managerial positions?


In my opinion, natural authority is best embodied in the legitimacy of decision-making. Good managers must be able make fast decisions. To do this, they have to be prepared to take a decision at any time, whatever the situation. Therefore, they must remain concentrated. This is similar to the way athletes behave. They can go into action when necessary with all their capacities mobilised.


A team can only succeed if it has a leader who makes decisions. To prepare for decision-making, we have to practice making decisions and avoid restrictive and prohibitive rules. We should never consider that there is only one way of dealing with a situation. The right answer comes from experience; it is never predetermined. We have to test scenarios. This means we have to develop the ability to seek out rules that allow us to respond appropriately at the right time. There are elements of risk in all choices, so it is essential we train ourselves to be courageous. And to control our mind and emotions.


Is it possible to train ourselves to control our mind and emotions in order to improve performance?


We cannot ignore emotions and affect on the pretext that we are in a professional environment. Managers must show humanity and be able to display their feelings. Experience should allow them to channel their emotions better. Good managers who have gained their teams’ trust must accept that team members may challenge them.


Contrary to beliefs, the army is not an environment devoid of feelings. In fact it is very conducive to emotions. When you find yourself in extreme situations, you have to be able to combat panic, fear and anger. This is why you shouldn’t be afraid of your emotions. You have to understand and control them and know how to put them to good use. If you try to ignore them, they may overwhelm you and then you may end up making mistakes. This brings us back to the fact that we need to manage and optimise mental characteristics in order to achieve efficient management. We all have innate characteristics but are also capable of developing new ones and this shouldn’t be underestimated.


– October 2017 –

Henri Vidalinc is Chairman of Grant Alexander.

Olivier Lajous is a consultant and speaker.

He served as a seaman in the navy for 38 years, starting out as a sailor and ending up as an admiral. He navigated for 16 years, commanded three ships and helped resolve many armed conflicts from 1980 to 2003 (Afghanistan, Iran-Iraq, the Lebanon, Libya-Chad, Yemen-Eritrea). He was a director of communications, director of a centre for higher education and then director of human resources for the national navy. He has also served in a government ministry for the Minister of Overseas Territories. Elected HR Manager of the Year in 2012, he is the author of “L’Art de diriger” (The art of managing) published by L’Harmattan.

We all are resilient

Athlete voice : Michaël Jérémiasz

Thank you Michaël for sharing with us the qualities that made you the champion and the committed man you are, a subtil mix of passion, pleasure, Athlete Thinking, thirst for life and resilience.

Michaël Jérémiasz is a paralympic athlete, multiple medal holder tennis champion, now consultant on disability issues. He was the flag bearer for the French delegation at Rio 2016 Paralympic games.

Athlete Thinking, a contagious state of mind

Grant Alexander has developed a business philosophy that reflects its company’s own culture: Athlete Thinking. 


Thinking as an athlete. 


That state of mind fuels everyone at Grant Alexander. It determines our market approach and the way we drive our candidates and their development.

It suggests looking at every individual’s potential under a double lens: through his professional abilities and his mental ones.

We truly believe that performance is not only a matter of skills.

It is nurtured by mental capacities that can be measured and optimized.

A good manager must be Athlete Minded

This is why we developed a methodology to identify individuals that are endowed with mental and behavioral characteristics that dispose them to success better than others.

Thinking as an athlete is playing one’s professional life as an adventure made up of commitments, sense and pleasure, an adventure that has success as its goal.