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Police Promotion: Responding Beyond the Theoretical by Steve Cooper



We have teamed up with Steve Cooper Police Promotion coach to bring you free tools and resources to help with your Police Promotion prep, Steve Cooper is one of the leading police promotion coaches in the United Kingdom.

Thanks to Steve and his company Rank Success is able to offer Police Hour readers free promotion tools that other coaches would charge you for, thanks to our great relation with Steve we are able to offer you this advice, information and valuable police promotion information and advice absolutely free of charge for the Police Hour readers looking for Police Promotion.

The focus of this exclusive editorial feature written by Steve Cooper is the ‘7 Things interview boards also look for in promotion candidates’ is knowledge of the policing environment you aspire to lead in. As a reminder, here are the 7 key traits which police promotion boards inherently value.

  1. Good awareness and understanding of vision or mission
  2. Self-aware, understanding personal values and development areas
  3. Demonstrates awareness of the current policing context
  4. A response that goes beyond the theoretical
  5. Able to evidence leadership impact in & beyond your team
  6. Well-structured and considered responses
  7. Demonstrate strong leadership skills grounded in service delivery

Thing 4: A Response That Goes Beyond the Theoretical

“It’s hard to prove yourself when the substance isn’t there.” – Travis Fimmel

Asking six questions in approximately 45 minutes provides a promotion panel with a snapshot of you. That’s not a lot of time. A promotion panel can only scratch the surface of your potential as a future leader. They do this by asking questions and writing down what you say, whilst listening to how you say it.

Successful promotion candidates have better interview skills, generally resulting from dedicating more time and effort to their interview preparation than others. You need not spend too long to appreciate that promotion panels recognise well-prepared candidates, by the content and delivery of responses to the interview questions posed.

“People rarely travel far enough along the path of self development to realise their potential.” – Sir John Whitmore

I referred in ‘Thing 2’ to the potential board question:

“What have you done to develop yourself or anyone else in the last 12 months?”

Less prepared candidates may provide a superficial response, sometimes even be struggling to grasp the relevance of the question. For example, they might say, “Oh yes, I value my CPD and others around me. I often look for opportunities to learn.”

But to borrow a football analogy, this question is an open goal, a fantastic opportunity to score. Well-prepared candidates who have committed to a depth and breadth of preparation will recognise the opportunity presented and are equipped to respond more comprehensively to it.

Open goal question

So lets look below the surface at how you might prepare and equip yourself…

“If you’re wasting your time by not investing in yourself, that is the greatest waste of all.” – Richie Norton

Sharing the Same Lay-by

Qualifying for promotion often requires months, sometimes even years, of disciplined study. You might then think it unbelievable that vast cohorts of successful individuals make a conscious decision to ‘ease off’ the accelerator afterwards. They graduallygrind to a halt in the months that follow, sharing the same lay-by and similar complacent thoughts:

  • “That’s the exam under my belt”.
  • “I’ve worked hard; I need and deserve a break now”.
  • “There are no promotion boards on the horizon, so I’ll give it a rest and just see what happens”.

Promotion to Sergeant and Inspector can be thought of as a ‘game of two halves’. The ‘half time’ gap between passing the exam and a promotion process arising is where traction towards achieving promotion often dissipates.

“The first step binds one to the second.” – French Proverb

Maintaining momentum via a development plan is important. Yet typically, I speak with lots officers who have done little since passing their exam. This ‘space between’ is significant, a valuable opportunity to work on becoming ‘match fit’ and once there, remain conditioned.

A Double Whammy

“While we are making up our minds as to when we shall begin, the opportunity is lost.” – Quintillian

Qualified officers are frequently under the mistaken impression that you have to have had acting or temporary supervisor experience to progress towards promotion. That is not the case. Many officers pass their promotion interviews without acting or temporary rank experience; you can see plenty of examples here.

In fact, acting or temporary experience is of limited value if you are not exploiting the learning opportunity. For example, your daily activities of attending incidents, managing resources and making decisions can be aligned to the personal qualities, competencies or behaviours you will be assessed against for the next rank.

It’s a double whammy if you are not doing this, because not only are you passing up the daily opportunity to develop a broader understanding of the role, the impact only hits when you are sat in front of the panel and realise you are out of your depth.

“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops… until your promotion interview.”

OK, so I adapted the above quote a little, but you get the point.

If you are reading this now, with OSPRE in the bag and you still aspire to promotion, one action you can take right now is to ensure that you have a personal development plan; even if it’s only some purposeful reading for now.

Whether you perform acting/temporary duties or otherwise, make notes as part of your development plan. You could use the following questions to help you prepare valuable evidence, providing content for both your application and interview responses:

  • What did you deal with? – (Be specific)  – The Position or situation?
  • What was your responsibility? – (Be specific) – Your task or objective?
  • How did you do it? – (Be specific) – Your actions?
  • Why are you doing it? – (Be specific) – What’s the point?
  • What was the outcome? (Be specific) – What was better? Improved? Avoided? Learned? Changed?

This is a great way to be proactive and build momentum ahead of both a promotion selection process. When it comes to the application or board, you can then align it into a memorable and clear structure, for example Problem, Action, Result (PAR). So let’s look at a detailed example from my “25+ Examples of What Works” guide for PC to Sergeant candidates…

Structuring your evidence: An example

This evidence by a neighbourhood Constable was used successfully towards achieving promotion to Sergeant. Notice how it aligns closely with the Policing Professional Framework (PPF) for the role of Sergeant and the competency descriptor for Public Service.

Here’s the framework guidance:

[Demonstrates a real belief in public service, focusing on what matters to the public and will best serve their interests. Understands the expectations, changing needs and concerns of different communities, and strives to address them. Builds public confidence by talking with people in local communities to explore their viewpoints and break down barriers between them and the police. Understands the impact and benefits of policing for different communities, and identifies the best way to deliver services to them. Develops partnerships with other agencies to deliver the best possible overall service to the public].

And here’s the officer’s evidence:

“As ‘Anytown’ Neighbourhood Team Leader (NTL), I dip sampled crimes and incident logs identifying an increase in crime and Anti Social Behaviour (ASB). My objectives were to investigate crimes and alleviate ASB to raise resident’s confidence.

To gain better understanding of underlying issues, I requested analytical work from police/council. I arranged meetings with partner/voluntary agencies to develop/implement a clear plan to improve areas, setting out responsibilities under Crime and Disorder Act. I represented the organisation at multi agency, residents and Council meetings. I ensured SMT understood the actions being taken and resources required. Community intelligence identified offenders. I directed resources to key areas to engage directly with the community, conducting surveys to identify specific issues of concern, signposting agencies where suitable. As areas were socially deprived I prioritised tasking of resources to target key locations and instigated preventative educational inputs on impact of ASB and crime to schools. I secured funding from partner agencies to install security fencing, CCTV and improved lighting/highway furniture. Due to my positive influence the local community organised a clean up operation, taking pride in improving their neighbourhoods. I respectfully challenged Housing Association Senior Managers, successfully instigating a change in policy across the region, which reduced community tension and increased public confidence. I arranged a community meeting with key representatives from Council, Housing Association and Fire Service to address specific community issues being raised, in a transparent and publicly accountable way. I arranged for media to be present to highlight positive news stories and encouraged community engagement for long-term positive outcomes.

Over a six-month period, analysis shows an overall reduction (40%) in ASB and criminal damage across Any-town. The ASB reduction is sustained. Community feedback reflected that police/council were now coordinating locally. Surveys confirm a significant increase in public confidence”.

Insight: This is an officer who clearly understands the relevant drivers of public confidence, including the effective investigation of crime, alleviating anti-social behaviour in communities and telling the public what police and partners are doing. There is a clear focus on delivering the best service possible to the community with available resources.

Partnership working

A gift to yourself

Now imagine the same officer is asked in a subsequent promotion interview:

 “Please provide an example of when you have worked in partnership to solve a community problem?” (or a variant of this question).

You can see that preparing specific evidence serves as very helpful content to practice interview responses. Even if you are not required to submit an application in your force selection process, preparing your evidence in this way is a gift to yourself.

It’s a great use of your time, allowing you to pick up insights into yourself and the process, to align your evidence to your promotion framework and importantly it’s an investment that will pay dividends because you will be more equipped to deliver informed and considered responses in the interview.

Take Action; it’s always an option.

If you found the above example helpful, why not download a digital guide NOW, for example…

  • 25+ detailed, structured examples of good evidence and what works in promotion applications
  • Bespoke ‘Guide to Passing Your Police Promotion Interview.’

Good candidates may answer the question. Better candidates are able to add context and/or make wider links. The BEST candidates as alluded to earlier, prepare gifts for themselves beforehand.

Do the work and as with James’ feedback below, you could even feel comfortable in showing the board your personality and passion, whilst delivering meaningful responses, not just theoretical! 

“Gave me a different way of thinking. I realised that I couldn’t rely on delivering evidence in a robotic and systematic way. This was fortunate as the board was not like that at all and turned into more of a conversation for which I had answers prepared…. I also felt comfortable showing my personality and passion, which I might otherwise have kept back.” – James, A/Sgt, passed Sergeants Promotion board

Please keep following Police Hour for Steve Cooper’s latest Police Promotion feature, offering you the best advice, context and information for free just for the Police Hour Readers.

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Police Promotion what is the role of a Police Sergeant?



As promised in my last blog Police Promotion: The Knowns and Unknowns, this article and the one that follows, will focus on the Sergeant’s role.

First Things First

“The best way to predict your future is to create it” – Abraham Lincoln

First things first, a thought once crossed your mind. Something similar to: ‘I believe that I have the potential to lead others in a formal leadership position as Sergeant’. Anyone can think it. You took action. You studied for months to move a step closer, towards making the jump. Converting that initial belief into reality. You’ve passed the Sergeant’s promotion exam.

Momentum maintained you might already be through the application and/or additional assessment tests.

There’s just the interview to go. It’s time. You’ve just sat down. Introductions over. The Chair of the board speaks:

“How would you describe your understanding of the Sergeant’s role?”

If this initial question identifies a gap in your knowledge, that’s good news because you can get to work on filling it. You have a fantastic opportunity right now, today, to develop your own response.

I’ll sometimes ask this question in coaching to help ascertain where individuals are in terms of preparedness. In my experience of helping officers to achieve promotion, I find initial responses to this question fall into two approaches.


“Silence is more eloquent than words.” Thomas Carlyle

Silence. Tumbleweed blows by. A church bell could chime in the distance. You get the picture. It feels a bit like being in a Spaghetti Western!

But there’s a lot of thinking going on when it’s quiet. Silence can be a good sign, certainly in coaching sessions.

Silence might precede a well-considered response or the realisation that though you might be performing the role in acting or temporary capacity, your confidence is low when talking about it. Of course, it may also mean that the right words are not there…yet!

It’s OK. After all, no one walks around in a state of readiness for a promotion board!

The Al Capone Response

“Deliver your words not by number but by weight” H.G. Bohn

The other response I see is a ‘verbal scattergun’ approach. This is where a candidate machine-guns words in the hope that they are saying the right things. It’s sometimes nerves or manifestations of one of the biggest fears people have about interviews: drying up or having nothing to say.

The good news is that a scattergun approach can be refined with practice, into a more considered response aligned to the role functions and responsibilities!

Role awareness

“Simples” – Alexander Meerkat

In footballing terms the question “Would you please describe your understanding of the Sergeant’s role?” is an open goal. They don’t come any easier.

It’s the kind of question that could be presented to you on a velvet cushion. With a pink bow, some sprinkles and a cherry on top. It’s a real gift! But there’s a caveat: It’s only an open goal or a gift for the well prepared.

You may be thinking: ‘Really? But that’s such a simple question!’

Most people will gladly have a go at answering this question. Outside the interview room it’s easy peasy. Or is it?

Try and find someone, anyone, who can answer this question well, off the top of his or her head. You’ll hear a wide variety of responses ranging from guesses, through to quite articulate waffle that might cause you to regret asking in the first place!

Knowing the role, spending time to develop your understanding around it means that even if you don’t get asked directly about it; you can be on the front foot and proactively communicating in interview what you do know about it.

Board members want candidates to do well, so it’s a pleasure when they get to hear professional responses from candidates who have clearly put some work in beforehand.

Take a few moments to think about and then describe what kind of behaviours and values a sergeant should be demonstrating. It’s a good place to start.

Role – ‘The behaviour pattern that an individual presents to others”

The Role of Sergeant…

Being a Sergeant is less about working in the spotlight yourself and more about focusing it on your team. Being able to link the role to performance outcomes is crucial to preparing examples of competence you may have; especially to convincing a board that you will manage performance.

But where is the Sergeant’s role written down? Where do you start? You’d think that would be the easy part. In some ways it is. Every force has role profiles, job descriptions and responsibilities for supervisors. You may also be provided with packs as part of your force promotion selection process to get some ideas.

In a nutshell, I would say the role is to set, communicate and reinforce standards in the organisation.

You can also get an overview from your force promotion framework. However, there are various aspects to the Sergeants’ role. It’s why there are different frameworks. It’s also why I encourage my clients to look at other force frameworks to help develop a wider appreciation of the role.

All things considered there’s quite a bit of information to think about.

Here’s one example or overview of the role from the Policing Professional Framework (PPF). It describes ‘personal qualities’ under various headings of a competent supervisory manager. It states a Sergeant must be able to:

Conduct intelligence driven briefing, tasking and debriefing
Prepare for, monitor and maintain, law enforcement operations
Supervise the response to critical incidents
Supervise investigations and investigators
Manage your own resources
Provide leadership for your team

The College of Policing’s new Competency and Values Framework (CVF) also sets out behaviours and values of the Sergeant’s role:

The CVF has 6 competencies.
Each competency has 3 levels describing what behaviours look like in practice.

The competencies are underpinned by 4 values.Then there’s the Metropolitan Leadership Framework (MLF):

This describes 4 main behaviour groups
There are 11 sub competencies
Competencies are underpinned by 4 values

Can You Spot The Difference!

If you saw a Sergeant walking down the street would you be able to tell if it was a PPF, CVF or MLF Sergeant? Could you spot the difference? Of course not, but there are various different descriptions of the role.

You’ll see that there is no shortage of information out there. So when you are asked about the role there’s a wide range of potential responses to the question: “How would you describe your understanding of the Sergeant’s role?”

Here’s a sentence to get you started.

“As a leader, manager and supervisor, I understand the Sergeant’s role as being critical to setting, communicating and reinforcing standards in the organisation….”

(How would you develop this response? What will you include?)

Here are some more questions to trigger some thinking and get you started:

What are your own expectations of the role?
What do you believe the public expect and deserve from this role?
What does your force expect from Sergeants?

In part 2, I’ll focus in more detail on some of the wider functions and responsibilities of the Sergeants’ role. Until then, wherever you are on your promotion journey I hope I have provided you with some food for thought.


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Police Promotion: Focus On Your Potential Not Your Limitations



Police promotion is not easy. It’s hard. If achieving it was easy, everyone might go for it. For those who do, promotion to Sergeant is a considerable step.

This first jump onto the rank structure or Greasy Pole as it is sometimes referred to is often cited as the most significant, rewarding and enjoyable career move. In terms of professional development as a leader, manager and supervisor, going for promotion is probably one of the biggest career decisions you’ll ever make. The process to get there is not for the faint-hearted either.

This can be quite daunting, especially if you are working shifts, balancing a family and wondering when or if you will be able to prepare. It requires reserves of energy, drive and resilience. You may have some big questions.

After studying for months to pass the law exam to qualify for a promotion, you might think that’s the end of it. It’s not.

“This is not the end. It is not the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps the end of the beginning” – Winston Churchill

It is just the end of the beginning because a wider selection process lies ahead. It’s also a key moment where individuals may need a well-earned break. Some recognise the need to keep traction going. For a variety of reasons, others take their foot off the accelerator, losing momentum and can find it difficult to regain that initial drive. A promotion opportunity at this point may still be months or even years away.

Candidates can be ‘timed out’ depending on how long ago they qualified. Some may even have to go back to the drawing board and start studying all over again.

Deciding To Seek Support

A continuous development plan together with a growth mindset is key for aspiring promotion candidates. Opportunities are opening up across forces.

In 2015/16 there were 1,089 Sergeant Promotions. Over 1,100 more Sergeants and Inspectors were promoted compared to the previous year and the highest proportion ever (27%) were female.   

So it is with some of the above observations in mind that Police Hourwanted to examine what the promotion journey is like from the perspective of a couple of candidates who successfully navigated the obstacles, barriers and challenges to achieve their promotions.

Case Study: Fast Track PC to Insp.

Candidate’s Coaching Insights…

My Nemesis: I contacted Steve for some help with promotion interviews. For a long time, I had struggled with interviews; I didn’t know how to get the right amount of detail in my answers whilst managing my time.

Interviews had turned into my nemesis and the more I worried about them the worse I performed. As a result, I failed my Sergeant promotion board in 2016.

On the Spot: To be honest, I never expected to get through the paper sift stage. After failing this board I promised myself that I wouldn’t let it happen again. I went back to the drawing board and targeted my areas for development, I decided to apply for Fast Track to really test my skills and abilities, to be honest I never expected to get through paper sift stage.

I found Steve online and got in touch via email, he was very prompt in his reply and said he was more than happy to help me with my Fast Track development. We agreed what I’d like to get out of the session beforehand, I wanted to be put on the spot, asked some difficult questions and I wanted Steve to be honest with where I was and how I could improve.

Reassurance: A week later we had a Skype coaching session. This was the first time I have done this kind of coaching. We went through introductions and some Sergeant and Inspector level questions. Steve provided detailed feedback for each response I gave, it was reassuring that I actually was better than I thought.

It really helped doing a ‘dry run’ with someone that didn’t know me and could give objective feedback about my strengths and weaknesses. Steve was very knowledgeable and his experience shone through. After the session he kept in touch and sent me articles and information that would help in my preparation, this was unexpected and showed his commitment to me getting the right result.

I Came Out Top: I know that it was my best interview to date. The coaching undoubtedly made the difference this time as I came out top of an in-force fast track assessment centre. I passed a competency-based interview, followed by an interview with Chief Officers. I was selected as one of only two people from my force to attend the College of Policing for the Fast Track Assessment.

I completed the assessment. Major difference this time: I felt comfortable and confident going into my interview component. I was reassured I had done the right preparation and targeted the right areas. My responses were detailed, to the point and all within the strict time limits.

I am now seeing steady improvement in an area that troubled me for years! Using career coaching is a great way to benchmark yourself, it has really helped me.

Case Study: Promotion to Sergeant

Candidate’s Coaching Insights…

I have recently passed my Sergeant board first time and can safely say I wouldn’t have had the confidence and drive to get through without support.

Removing Mystery: I started out totally mystified and unsure of what lay ahead and so nine months prior to my board I attended a promotion master class. This took away some of the mystery for me and also gave me some confidence in my approach. In between? Practice, practice, practice.

Panic and Hitting the Wall: I’d say the most valuable part of my rank success experience include the guides, which I could reference at any point, but also the fact that Steve was there via email or phone to bring me back to focus when I contacted him in a panic having hit a wall in my preparation.

Through that Door: It’s a very hard process, but so worth it if you are willing and able to put the time and work in. Nothing comes easily, but rank success tools guide you down the right path and give you the confidence that you need and can take with you as soon as you walk through that door on the day of your board. “I get posted to my new team in the next couple of weeks and I still can’t quite believe it!”   

We also asked Steve Cooper of Rank Success for his own insights on these case studies.

Steve’s Coaching Insights:

Two of the hardest things to handle in life are success and failure. Both feature intrinsically in police promotion processes. It’s no surprise that some individuals want to maximise their potential. A sounding board or thinking partner is how some individuals describe coaching, but my favourite description of coaching is Tim Gallwey’s:

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise his or her own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” – Tim Gallwey

The officers featured in the two case studies both adopted the most simple and effective strategy that I know of for achieving promotion. Prepare ahead! One alludes to starting nine months ahead of opportunity.

I find many officers are still quite sceptical about coaching. As an ex-cop myself; it’s something I understand. A legacy of a spoon-fed learning culture within policing still influences attitudes towards career development.

It’s a shame because some very capable individuals remain trapped in that mindset.

There are no guarantees of success when it comes to promotion. No one can offer that. Yet some still ‘see’ only the tangible outcome e.g. success or failure. That is to ignore other benefits and products of coaching including:

  1. Proactive focused thought, attention and observation
  2. Self-belief, self-motivation, commitment, awareness, responsibility
  3. Higher than normal focused attention; leading to higher than normal performance
  4. Action
  5. Achieving – What next?

This is the ‘stuff’, which, combined with an enthusiastic approach underpins success. In short, including coaching as part of your promotion preparation can help you focus on your potential instead of your limitations.


If you are preparing ahead and would like something to trigger and support your thinking, you might discover some known knowns, known unknowns or even unknown unknowns in my FREE 50 page downloadable guide: ‘7 Things Promotion Boards Also Look For’.

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Police Promotion the Knowns and Unknowns



Promotion to Sergeant and Inspector ranks are significant transitions in any policing career.

Becoming More Promotable

Following a kind invitation from Police Hour, I am delighted to have this opportunity to support UK police officers aspiring to police promotion and looking to make the jump to first and second line supervisor positions.

With that in mind, i aim over coming months to offer guidance to help navigate some of the real and perceived barriers associated with achieving promotions.

If you missed my initial blog you can find it here: The Greasy Pole 

I thought I would start this blog by looking at some things generally well known around promotion in the service, whilst also considering valuable aspects that often remain unknown.

Over the next couple of months, I’ll expand on some of these themes to ensure officers working to become ‘more promotable’ can benefit from FREE tips and insights to raise awareness and deliver their best performance when it matters.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Preparing ahead is a simple strategy for promotion success.

Adopting this approach will help confirm what you know, identify what you don’t and identify things you hadn’t even thought about knowing.

Imagine walking into your promotion board and every question the panel asks you is an unwelcome surprise.

You struggle to understand the relevance of the first question. You are uncomfortable. You find yourself struggling to string together a meaningful response. You wish the earth would open up and swallow you. It’s a big relief when it’s all over. You know afterwards in your heart that they didn’t see you at your best.

Does this happen? Yes. Is it entirely avoidable? Of course!

I was inspired to write this blog partly through speaking recently to a group of promotion candidates. Some honestly believed that being effective at their day job equated to being a good promotion candidate. Signposting them to certain information resources came as a significant revelation with one commenting:

You don’t know what you don’t know, how are you supposed to know this stuff?

This brought to mind the following quote by Donald Rumsfeld, former U.S. Secretary of Defence:

As we know, there are known knowns; these are things we know we know. We also know that there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. – Donald Rumsfeld

People initially thought Rumsfeld’s speech was nonsense but I believe the statement makes good sense.

Scientific research often investigates known unknowns, so when it comes to awareness levels and knowledge in the context of preparing for police promotion opportunities, I thought it might be helpful to reflect upon Rumsfeld’s statement and some of its points.

Known Knowns

Things we know we know about promotion selection processes include some of the steps involved:

  • Written applications
  • Psychometric tests
  • Interview/board

Written applications

The initial application could be a full competency-based format or a simple registration form. If the former, there’ll be a requirement to align your evidence or examples to your own force promotion framework (CVF/MLF/PPF).

Word limits apply too, ranging between 250 words to a couple of thousand.

We know some forces don’t require applications, instead, they require first-line supervisors to ‘write up’ individuals to be considered for promotion.

Psychometric tests

Additional gateway stages involving psychometric tests are now a common feature of promotion selection processes.

These include Inductive Reasoning Tests (IRT) or ‘diagrammatic style’ tests, designed to measure abilities important in solving problems.

Another variant is the Situational Judgment Test (SJT), which assesses the ability to choose the most appropriate action in workplace situations. It’s considered to be a particularly effective measure of managerial and leadership capabilities. There are others.


This is perhaps the best of the known knowns.

An interview is a consistent theme and perhaps the most recognised component of a selection process AKA a promotion board.

Although it’s well known, individuals still turn up and knock on this particular door of opportunity significantly unprepared for it. That’s despite weeks and sometimes months of advance notice.

The timescales for a promotion selection process are a known, along with the fact that line supervisors are likely to recommend you for promotion and hopefully offer assistance.

We also know there is always more to learn and support is appreciated and valued.

Last but no means least, we know there will be more candidates than posts – ergo competition.

Known Unknowns

Things we do not know. 

In my experience, it is not unusual for aspiring officers to not know the role they are applying for. Being able to speak about it for five minutes is beyond them initially.

It’s easily admitted by most and quickly remedied but it’s a significant knowledge gap for anyone hoping to impress a promotion panel. Having a good understanding of the role also facilitates confidence in being proactive in written applications and verbally in an interview.

Another known unknown is lack of understanding around the type of interview or kind of questions candidates will face. Again, this gap is easily filled and awareness improved, so that reasonable anticipation of questions and potential responses can be considered and factored into effective preparation.

Wider challenges facing policing, a candidate’s force or what they will do as a newly promoted Sergeant or Inspector to contribute to successful policing are frequently recognised as known unknowns. A few choice questions can quickly identify these gaps and get to work on filling them so that a candidate is not only aware but has an in-depth insight and focus on what they have to offer the force in tackling these issues as a newly promoted leader, manager and supervisor.

A simple thing that can bypass candidates is the value of guidance and instructions issued by their force for the forthcoming promotion process. This often includes specific detail about what is important for the organisation at the time, qualities the force is looking for, guidance around the process and important rules to follow (e.g. Word limits)

Lots of candidates know they don’t know these things, but they attempt the process anyway. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but preparing ahead to get it right first time is about working smart as well as hard.

Especially when support is often hidden in plain sight.

Unknown Unknowns

These are things we don’t know we don’t know. For example, did you know that different forces have different promotion processes in place at different times for different ranks?

Not a lot of people know that  – Michael Caine

Most unknown unknowns can be thought of as ‘impossible to imagine in advance’. In other words, unidentified risks.

Preparing you to be an all round better candidate, confident and aware with a rounded perspective on leadership and your own development needs, can take time. The benefit is that it stands you in good stead for any process.

Discovering your unknown unknowns is about converting them to known unknowns so that they become manageable. You can focus and fill your gaps from there.

Why Are the Goal Posts Changing? 

Unknown unknowns become apparent or may ‘surface’ in coaching conversations. Alternatively, the ‘penny drops’ in a promotion Masterclass, where an unknown issue is highlighted and can then be expanded upon as required.

What occurs out there in the wider world and how it links to changing requirements in the context of promotion processes is one example. Common questions officers ask include:

  • Why are the goalposts changing?
  • Why are all these tests being introduced?
  • What have they got to do with policing?

These unknown unknowns remain unanswered for many.

It comes as surprise news that the World Economic Forum (WEF) has identified specific skills needed – up to 2020 and beyond – by leaders and line managers across various industries. It detailed them in a report the ‘Future of Jobs’ as follows:

  • Complex Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • People Management
  • Co-ordinating with others
  • Judgement and Decision Making
  • Cognitive Flexibility.

Now overlay them across assessment tests in current police promotion selection processes and you can quickly recognise links, understand the context and get to work on practising assessment tests in advance to close your gaps. These skills are assessed against competencies described in your force promotion framework (e.g. decision making)

Indicators of Leadership High Potential

A common unknown is that the College of Policing (COP) has produced a document, which details indicators of leadership high potential. You’ll find it as an appendix to fast-track promotion guidance.

It describes expectations and is helpful for aspiring promotion candidates to align against. You can recognise skills identified in the WEF ‘Future of Jobs’ report including Emotional intelligence, Critical thinking and Decision-making.

Image Reproduced with permission of the College of Policing.

7 Things Promotion Boards Also Look For

Finally, if you are preparing ahead and would like something to trigger and support your thinking, you might discover some known knowns, known unknowns or even unknown unknowns in my FREE 50 page downloadable guide: ‘7 Things Promotion Boards Also Look For’.

In my next two blogs, I’ll focus on the roles of Sergeant and Inspector.Until then, wherever you are on your promotion journey I hope I have provided you with some food for thought.

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