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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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Promotion: Your Mission Should You Choose To Accept It



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



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?



 “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’

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