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Police Promotion the Knowns and Unknowns

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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.

Interview 

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.

Let us know your views by tweeting @PoliceHour We'll feature the best tweets within the article.

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Promotion: Your Mission Should You Choose To Accept It

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Promotion Interviews: Mission Impossible?

 “Mr Hunt, this isn’t mission difficult, it’s mission impossible” – Commander Swanbeck

You are to appear before a panel. Your mission should you choose to accept it, is to identify, secure and assimilate critically important information to respond effectively to their questions. Your actions from today are vital to equipping yourself with the knowledge, skills and attributes you will require. That is all. Good luck.

 Ok, as you’ve probably guessed, I recently went to see Mission Impossible – Fallout, at the cinema.

 It’s as good as all the hype too. Here’s a taster:

Identify and Secure Intelligence

“Intelligence or the lack of it determines the probability of success” – Sun Tsu

 Gathering, verifying and assessing facts and information is the first step in the decision-making process and identifying operational threats and risks. Asking questions to do that are key. Good leaders don’t have all the answers but do ask great questions.

 What do you know? What do you need to know? Where and how will you get the information required?

 Here’s another: “What kind of promotion interview will you face?”

 As a coach/mentor, I’ll often ask candidates this question because responses can be revealing. A tremendous amount of uncertainty around this topic is not uncommon. Many candidates unwittingly ignore or overlook existing open source intelligence.

“You don’t understand what you are involved in” – Ilsa Faust (MI6)

“I don’t know” is a common reply. And that’s ok because it’s a great place to start.

 As a leader, manager and supervisor you won’t always have all the facts and it’s a helpful question to identify knowledge gaps, raise awareness and to build confidence. Being comfortable with uncertainty is also an expectation for leadership development given today’s vortex of change.

 When asked in the film how he was going to solve the problem at hand, agent Hunt replies:

 “I’ll figure it out.”

 Adopting an intelligence-based approach is a tried and tested method to help you figure out how to perform well in your force selection process – and accomplish your mission of securing promotion.

There are a variety of knowns and unknowns involved and many individuals are simply unaware that a great deal of useful information is freely available, hidden in plain sight! I encourage officers to build and develop an intelligence picture of what is known.

“Maybe it’s hard to see what’s right in front of you while you’re frantically searching for it” – Susane Colisanti

 Actionable Information 

“Information about the package is as important as the package itself” – Frederick W. Smith

* * * Impossible Missions Force (IMF): 13 Point Intelligence Report  * * *

  • You will face a competency interview. This is also known as a structured or behavioural interview.

  • You need to understand this because it means you will be asked questions in a certain way.

  • In means also that any answers you provide should be structured. This will help you to score. Different structures exist. You need to choose one you feel comfortable with.

  • Any selection test for promotion including this interview will be assessed against a competency framework.

  • Different competencies may be tested more than once during a selection process, so develop your understanding of the assessment framework. You’ll be operating blind if you don’t.

  • You will be asked six to eight questions. Some will be forward facing questions. Others will be rear facing.

  • You’ll have between 45 minutes and 60 minutes to persuade and influence the panel that you can do the job.
  • Make it easy for them to choose you. Be so good they can’t ignore you.

  • All agents should know. Those days of ‘winging it’ or flying by the seat of your pants – are long gone.

  • Prevailing in this situation is likely to be underpinned by your ability to talk comfortably about the role; the challenges you’ll face and how you believe you can meet them.

  • A demonstrable understanding of vision, mission and shared values are important.

  • The depth and breadth of your preparation will be apparent to those charged with making the decision to promote you.

  • The panel’s role is to promote the best available people. Start now.

***This report will self-destruct in five seconds ***

 Once you’ve acquired timely, accurate and actionable information as outlined above you’ll need to increase your focus, up your energy and activity levels to make full use of it.

Making the jump from where you are to where you want to be, requires an effective plan and action! A digital Toolkit could help you leap to another level. Heightening awareness as you get nearer to the prize can be a nail-biting experience. You may need to fight harder, change gear or increase your speed.  

“Phoenix, I have eye on the prize. Do you copy?” – Ethan Hunt

 Achieving promotion can sometimes seem like Mission Impossible. However, hundreds of officers are taking covert action using open source information, which enables them to report back successfully:  “Mission accomplished”.

Let us know your views by tweeting @PoliceHour We'll feature the best tweets within the article.

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Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You

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A determined Sergeant inspired me to write this blog. He first made contact with me because he had been unsuccessful in previous attempts at promotion to Inspector in his own force. I’ll come back to this later…

There’s no easy route to acquiring or developing good interview skills. It takes time, perseverance and commitment. The good news is that you can massively enhance your chances of success with some smart working. Because of the promotion processes are a competition, it means you must become the best version of you.

A strong performance in your promotion interview is likely to be underpinned by your ability to talk comfortably: Talking about the role you aspire to, your workforce mission, vision and shared values; together with enthusiasm and a clear idea of what you will do with your new stripes or pips going forward.

 Begin With the End in Mind

 “Visualise this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blue print, and begin to build.” – Robert Collier

To make it easy for the panel to pick you from others, aim to be so good that they can’t ignore you. This is in your power. Take a few moments to visualise your promotion interview. Ask yourself these questions and write down your responses.

  1. What impression do I want to leave the panel with when I leave the room?
  2. What do I want them to think?
  3. What needs to happen for that to be the case?

Visualising success ahead of your promotion opportunity helps lay a mental foundation for managing your interview responses. Thinking through potential questions and responses develops self-awareness and incrementally builds your personal confidence. However, it’s not a one-off. You need to work at this over time.

 Your Attitude

“You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each day and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better” – John Wooden

Your attitude is a hypothetical construct that represents your degree of like or dislike for something. It is your ‘state of readiness’ to respond in a characteristic way to a concept or situation. It is the dynamic element in your behaviour, the motive (reason) for activity e.g. Why are you doing this?

The good news is that your attitude is a choice. It can be changed through persuasion. It is generally a positive or negative view of a thing or event. Always remember that you are free to choose your attitude.

“The last of human freedoms is the power to choose one’s attitude to a given set of circumstances” – Victor Frankl

What attitude have you chosen?

 Growth Mindset

 “When the world says give up,hope whispers, tryone more time.” – Unknown

Have a look at the differences between fixed and growth mindsets, as described by the psychologist Carol Dweck.

The following also lays the concept out nicely in a graphic designed by the theorist Nigel Holmes.

Dweck states that a passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even when it is not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. Individuals with the growth mindset find success in doing their best, in learning and improving.

What do you recognise in your own mindset?

A Triple Whammy…

“Some people don’t like competition because it makes them work harder, better” – Drew Carey

Aspiring officers who have previously experienced failure often contact me. As a coach/mentor, I believe in the potential of every individual.

I mentioned earlier that I had been inspired to write this blog by a Sergeant, who had been unsuccessful in promotion selection processes in his force. We spoke on the phone and it was clear that he still possessed a positive attitude.

Although he was disappointed by previous setbacks, his growth mindset, self-belief and reserves of resilience were all factors that made him want to try again. But this time he decided to approach things slightly differently. I’ll let him tell the story:

“I applied for promotion three times with my force and was unsuccessful each time. From wanting to give up and thinking it may not be for me, I attended the Rank Success promotion Masterclass, where I got to grip with how and what I needed to do. I tried one final time applying for mutiple advertised Inspector vacancies in three different forces. Every force had different application processes (A “Why Me & Why Now” Letter, an online application and a standard application).

“I was successful in all three paper sifts that followed and was invited to interviews/assessment centres. Rank Success eBooks helped me prepare for my presentations, briefings and formal interviews.”

I went from 3 Failures to 3 Passes!

“I passed all three-promotion boards with flying colours coming top in two processes. A choice of three forces! I wish I could take all the positions offered but have to decide where is my career best suited!”  –

Deepak recently (Passed THREE Inspectors processes at once!)

What happened for this to be the outcome?

When you begin with the end in mind,‘ Be so good they can’t ignore you, becomes a mindset. It raises the bar from day one. I encourage all my clients to aim that high.

Successful candidates often tell me that they put more effort, time and commitment into preparing for their interview than anything they have ever prepared for before. As a result, they feel more aware and confident. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard!

Ask yourself  How much do I want to succeed?

Am I prepared to do the necessary work to perform to the best of my ability when it matters?

Life is a series of choices. You can choose your mindset. You can choose to start now.

Wherever you are on your promotion journey, Rank Success can help you prepare effectively. Why not download a FREE guide & start today?

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If You Don’t Believe in Yourself, Why Should Anyone Else?

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 “Your success depends mainly on what you think of yourself and whether you believe in yourself  William J. H. Boetcker 

 Our relationships, abilities and possibilities are influenced by our beliefs about them. These beliefs can be empowering but amongst them we all have some limiting beliefs and thoughts. 

 These are the powerful thoughts that limit action, that stop you moving forward. Some are as a result of social conditioning, often from childhood and act as your very own filter of reality, affecting how you see and experience the world. These limiting or negative beliefs are also invisible. They hold you back from achieving your true potential. 

 As the owner of these thoughts and beliefs you can choose to get rid of them. You can do this through raising your awareness and prove them false. Sometimes described as stinking thinking, here are some examples. 

  • All the wrong people get promoted

  • It’s a waste of time

  • I don’t have enough experience

  • It’s not a fair process

  • There’s no point in me applying

  • I’m too old

  • Others have a better chance than me

  • I’m not good enough

  • I’m too young

  • I don’t have the time

  • There are no opportunities

 You can identify and acknowledge your self-limiting or negative beliefsBeing completely honest with yourself is a starting point. Everyone has them. At least one! 

 Write them down. Make them visible.

Out In The Open

“Positive thinking won’t let you do anything, but it will let you do everything better than negative thinking will” Zig Ziglar

Once they are out in the open, one way of dealing with these thoughts is to reframe them. Reframing is a technique for altering negative or self-defeating thought patterns by deliberately replacing them with positive conscious self-talk. It’s about changing your perception and generating new options.  

For example: “I don’t have enough time” when reframed becomes “I prioritise things that are important to me”.

Here are some more:

A Thinking Partner

“Our thoughts are shaped by our assumptions and sometimes those assumptions are just plain wrong” Cara Stein

Coaches are sometimes described as a thinking partner. Supporting and respectfully challenging the thinking of individuals who aspire to promotion is something that I love doing.

Identifying stinking thinking and then reframing it helps with getting the approach right going forward. It’s a valuable tactic and one that can help build confidence.

I hear lots of aspiring promotion candidates using the term ‘if I’m successful” when talking about opportunities ahead. That’s some stinking thinking right there!  It’s a subconscious barrier. It reflects inner doubt, lack of self-belief and can prevent you from presenting the best version of yourself during a promotion selection process.

Reframing can be a powerful enabler.  Here’s a brief insight from Steve, a Detective Sergeant, prior to successfully achieving his goal of promotion to Inspector:

“The positive mind set you kept me in was very good for me…You often corrected me from saying ‘if’ I pass to ‘when’ I pass, which had an impact psychologically on my preparation and actually made me feel you were keeping me on track. Compared to a previous unsuccessful interview, I felt completely different and more relaxed. Where I was unsure… a quick chat put me back in the positive thinking area again. There were a few times you did that”

Reframing “if” (stinking thinking) to “when” (positive thinking) helps tremendously in visualising a successful outcome. As Henry Ford puts it: 

“If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right”

Finally, if you are preparing ahead and would like something to trigger and support your thinking, here’s a FREE 50 page downloadable guide: ‘7 Things Promotion Boards Also Look For’

Let us know your views by tweeting @PoliceHour We'll feature the best tweets within the article.

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