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Your Career Retainer

Your Career Retainer is a monthly career column written for Drexel alumni by Chris Bilotta '77, '84. Chris is co-owner of the Resource Development Company, Inc., is a Certified Public Accountant, and is recognized as a Certified Professional Résumé Writer.

Alumni are encouraged to send comments, questions or suggestions for future column topics to

Ensuring Succession Plans Succeed
June 2014

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article written by reporter Willa Plank, while most companies say they understand the importance of succession planning, their actions say otherwise.

Plank cites a couple of studies of senior executive succession planning by Stanford University/Institute of Executive Development and Stanford/Heidrick & Struggles revealing that many organizations lack a formal process for grooming successors for top leadership roles and the average time needed to find a permanent replacement for a CEO is nearly 90 days.

Experts agree that it's risky to let succession planning slide. Not having someone in place to follow a key senior manager can lead to reduced performance and in the case of a public company a drop in shareholder confidence. To get succession planning right, these same experts offer the following tips.

  • Proactively recruit before a vacancy occurs.
    Start the search for a successor the day the new executive starts. Today's volatile and ever-changing markets, rapid technology changes and even burnout can result in the need for a quick change.

  • Align succession planning with compensation.
    Consider developing senior executive bonus plans in part on how well they plan for succession.

  • Focus on the future.
    When performance is good, companies tend to stay with the tried and true and choose successors who have behaviors similar to the incumbent. The best candidate, however, is someone who is focused on future business strategy, not the present or the past.

  • Promote transparency.
    Management transitions can be risky, so reassure all stakeholders that you will minimize any disruptions by sharing details of the succession plan including: roles in the process, outline of the company's career development program and a description of the selection criteria.

  • Consider soft skills.
    Look for candidates with mental agility and empathy - skills that will make them well suited to today's global business environment. Leadership qualities are key as well as the ability to leverage empathy to motivate a wide variety of constituents.


About the Author

Chris Bilotta

Christopher Bilotta '77, '84, has extensive experience in talent acquisition and management, recruiting, human resources, finance, accounting and systems. His specific expertise lies in providing customized retained search services to corporate clients and career management, coaching and job search assistance to individuals. Chris is a sought after advisor and mentor dedicated to building high performance organizations and helping people realize their professional goals.

He joined Resource Development Company, Inc. (RDC), a privately held Human Resource consulting firm in 1994 and became a co-owner in 2001. He directed and managed the firm’s retained search practice and helped establish the company as one of the top 20 recruiting firms in the Philadelphia area as ranked by the Philadelphia Business Journal Book of Lists.

Chris’ educational background includes a BS in Business Administration with a major in Accounting and MBA from Drexel University. He is licensed as a Certified Public Accountant and recognized as a Certified Professional Résumé Writer.

He has also been a member of Drexel’s LeBow College of Business MBA Career Services Advisory Council since its inception in 2004 and was named the Chair in 2006. In addition, Chris serves on the Board of Trustees for Saint Basil Academy, a Philadelphia area private high school and is a member on the Board of Advisors for two early-stage companies involved in college athletic recruiting and Web site development.

For more of Chris' columns on leadership and management, visit For his columns on job searching, online branding and other topics, visit

Issue Archive

March 2010
Silence: The Root Cause of Project Failure

May 2010
The Uncommon Practice of Common Purpose

June 2010
Wise Leaders and Planting Trees

July 2010
10 Steps to Effective Leadership

September 2010
Can You Predict Leadership Failures?

October 2010
Follow the Leader

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Lead While You Manage

January 2011
Driving Change and Making It Stick

February 2011
Become a Great Leader

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Using Influence to Get Things Done

May 2011
Execute Your Strategy

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Three Traits Every CEO Needs

July 2011
Activate Your Entrepreneurial Leadership

August 2011
Turning Around Negative Attitudes

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Building a Better Top Team

November 2011
Look Beyond Results When Assessing Talent

March 2012
The Four Cs of Effective Leadership

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The 3rd Alternative

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Why Top Talent Leaves

July 2012
LeBron's Leadership Lessons

August 2012
What Leaders Do Best

September 2012
5 Leadership Lessons You Won't Learn in B-School

October 2012
Four Traits of Collaborative Leaders

November 2012
Winning the Battle for Talent

January 2013
Leadership as Craftsmanship

February 2013
Developing Leadership Principles

March 2013
Handling Employee Exits

May 2013
Leadership Pitfalls

July 2013
Cultivating Creativity

August 2013
Tune In or Be Tuned Out

September 2013
The Wise Leader

November 2013
Stop Being Nice at Work

December 2013
Quiet Leadership

February 2014
The Leadership Bridge

May 2014
Leadership Rules for the New Normal