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Police Promotion: Focus On Your Potential Not Your Limitations

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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.

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’.

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”.

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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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Promotion

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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