I’m writing to you today to share a few insights, tips and observations on the topic of police promotion. I believe you may find this summary of my recent musings helpful, as you prepare for promotion to sergeant or the inspecting ranks.
“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming” – John Wooden
As a coach and mentor, I believe in the potential of every candidate, even if you don’t believe it… yet! I also believe that courage and confidence can be viewed as skills, and as such they can be developed like other skills. This is an important part of my approach to ‘what works’ in converting leadership aspirations into promotion success.
Here’s a summary of some other aspects of my approach and insights I provide to promotion candidates, which I’d like to share more widely in this open letter…
It’s all about the future
“Shadows on the hills, Flaming flowers that brightly blaze, Swirling clouds in violet haze, Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of China blue.” – Don Mclean
One of aspiring officers’ biggest mistakes is the belief that promotion is given based on past performance. It’s not. It is more about what you will do next, an investment by your force in your future potential.
Of course, you may be asked in your promotion interview about past operational examples (i.e. rear-facing questions). Though as a well-prepared candidate, you’ll be able to paint a brighter picture of the organisation for the future. This features you solving problems and maximising potential opportunities. Articulating as a leader, manager and supervisor that ‘light’ at the end of the tunnel, the light that some pessimists may argue has been turned off in the interests of economy!
If you’ve read the quote above, you might have recognised lyrics from Don Maclean’s song Vincent. It’s very illustrative isn’t it? It conjures in your mind’s eye, a vivid picture. Now imagine being asked in your promotion board:
“What benefits will this Force experience if we promoted you today?”
If you’ve done your homework, that’s a gift of a question. What impression would you want to portray to the panel? That’s just one example of a forward facing question, to trigger some thinking and get you forward focused.
You might however be reading this in a force that requires you to write a letter to your Chief Constable, setting out the case for promoting you immediately. A sifting exercise entitled: Why you? Why Now?
It certainly takes some thinking about. Would you find this an easy or difficult exercise? What will you write in an application booklet or say to that in a promotion interview? Whether you are required to do that or not, it’s a great development exercise to get you thinking today about what your future contribution will be if you were given your stripes or pips.
One way or another, your promotion board will want to hear about it, so working through your response to such questions in advance can raise your awareness and build your confidence.
Get Your Act Together
“Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better” – Jim Rohn
If you are currently qualified to Sergeant or Inspector, congratulations! I know just how much work will have gone into that. You will now be at that well-known crossroads, the one with the great big sign that says: So What?
Everyone arrives at this junction motivated, determined and enthusiastic. But attrition starts here, unless you focus promptly on the next junction: Now What?
You are in a busy pool of promotion candidates. More arrivals are due next year, as more pass their legal exam on their own journey to promotion. All have valid tickets, but a significant proportion may never advance to their desired destination. Many choose to mark time having reached this point; they sit back passively and await a force process. That may be a while these days, although across the country there are opportunities abound. Those who stand still risk their motivation waning and momentum may be lost if there is no investment in continuous personal and/or professional development.
Others kick things up another level. If that’s you, two things are important from now on: First, you’ll need to make a solid commitment to yourself to raise your game. Second, draw up a meaningful development plan to prepare, well in advance of any board opportunity. In summary if you are qualified, it’s time to get your act together.
“If you would hit the mark, you must aim a little above it.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I encourage you to aim high from the outset. Be so good they can’t ignore you. I’m particularly proud of the many officers who adopt this mindset after having their eyes opened to the process, then go on to pass their promotion boards first time.
You are likely to need an overwhelming appetite to advance as a leader in today’s VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). Certain skills are more valuable in predicting future success for first and second line manager positions, for example:
- Emotional intelligence
- Leadership and collaboration
You may recognise these skills from your force’s promotion framework. Raising your awareness and developing your knowledge about these is important.
“Leadership is not about position: it is about what you do and how you behave”– J. Owen
I understand that you might prefer to rearrange your sock drawer, but you have the option today to become an expert on your force promotion framework. Competence at your current rank is a minimum expectation. Doing your day job has little to do with the transformative preparation necessary to become the best promotion candidate you can be.
So, immersing yourself in the criteria you will be assessed against can help strip away some the mystery, confusion and frustration that sometimes surrounds selection processes. It can also equip you to better interpret and respond to board questions that you may be asked, for example:
- As a newly promoted Sergeant/Inspector what personal and policing challenges do you see ahead?
- How are you improving? How will you develop your team?
- How will you know that your decisions have been implemented?
Of course, if you are qualified and would like to take a quantum leap forward with your preparation, you can hit the ‘Jump to Light Speed’ switch and download a digital promotion toolkit and/or attend an upcoming Promotion Masterclass for a head start.
As John Wooden would say:
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts”.
I’ll write again soon.