Having passed my OSPRE exams in 2009 for Sergeant to Inspector and received some very positive encouragement from both my SMT and external stakeholders, I finally decided to attempt the promotion process so as to obtain a couple of “pips”.
Now as you read on, please bear in mind that the last promotion exercise I went through was around 2006.
I commence with the paper sift and having covered the role of Inspector for the last 20 months, I feel exceptionally confident (perhaps a little too confident). However, I completed the form, matching up my examples with the Police Professional Framework criteria and after checking it, I hit the submit button.
Around 2 weeks later, I receive an email telling me that I had been successful and requesting dates for my availability to attend a promotion panel. I provide dates and wait for confirmation of the “big day”.
The big day.
So the day arrives and I have been selected to attend an interview process some considerable distance away from where I live and am posted – as it turns out this was quite a good thing!
I set off early as I hate being late and try my best not to crease my trousers or scuff my polished boots – eventually arriving at my destination in one piece. On my arrival I become very aware that I am early and as such, I decide that a Costa (other coffee brands are available and I have no association direct or indirect with Costa) is in order while I look over my notes and examples. It is at this point that my disaster commences, while sipping my Costa, I have a coughing fit and in the fracas of this, I manage to spill half a cup of “Latte light” all down my shirt!
Still being a prepared chap – I think to myself; “don’t panic – you can always wear your fleece over the top and this will hide the mess” (yes my force is one that no longer provides tunics – and although I do have one from when I joined, I am ashamed to say that I have put on a few pounds so in the interest of comfort and not having to breathe in throughout the interview………..).
Despite my setback, I attend my interview panel location and am met with a warm and friendly smile, which I respond to with some light chat prior to being taken into a small room where I have some flip chart paper, a couple of pens and a mountain of text to read, digest and assist me in preparing my preparation about Sanford Police Station and its issues. After 30 minutes I am told that my time is up and asked to follow the “warm smiler” into the panel room.
On entering the room, I see three people sat behind a long table – each of significant rank, while sat a least 15 ft away from the table is a solitary chair – like an abandoned and unloved island in the middle of a savage ocean. Well I guessed that was for me and instinctively, I walked over to the chair and began to move it closer to the table only to be told to leave it where it was.
After initial introductions, I was asked to commence my 10 minute presentation which I had prepared and feeling confident (I have done a lot of public speaking before through my former job in sales, as well as ensuring that I deliver presentations in my policing career), I stood up by the flip chart and commenced my delivery.
It was all going rather well, I felt full of energy and enthusiasm, I had my coffee stain covered by my fleece and the audience were leaning in and listening with great intensity – fantastic!
Around the 5 minute mark as the three panel members were deep in trance with my presentation, suddenly from an area around the upper left hand side of my chest there was a rather familiar noise “Ring, Ring……………Ring, Ring”. What could I do – I looked at them, they looked at me, until eventually I passed my apologies and took the phone out of my top left fleece pocket (which I had only put in due to the Costa disaster) and placed it on silence.
From there on in the process was a complete disaster and I may as well have been wearing a Father Christmas hat and a pair of slippers – I came across as a complete buffoon (which is why I am grateful I had to travel so far, as I did not know any of the panel members – which saved me some embarrassment). Needless to say, I failed the process, which in fairness was the right decision as it clearly reflects the fairness and objectivity of the process.
I am still licking the wounds from that day and rebuilding my pride, as everyone was certain I would pass – however, clearly it was my own fault that I did not. While I was pleased that I had failed as it did show how objective the system is, it did make me start to question if this really was the best process for promotion.
While the process is objective and fair, it is clearly all about “the day” and nothing which you have done previously really matters. I get that this prevents nepotism, but equally it means that those who have proven they can do the job – might not get through, while others may be coached to get through.
I know this will sound like “sour grapes” – it really isn’t. I am very happy being back to Sergeant (yes after 20 months, I returned to the role of operational Sergeant) – I can leave the office and meet the people we serve as well as some of the customers of the service we provide. However, is there a better way forwards for promotion which takes a broader look at the individuals skills, knowledge and attitude? Of course, I knew the process and as such can not complain and I don’t – but I do ponder on how we could improve the system.
I am not sure there will ever be such a process which strikes the right balance between objectivity and common sense – so I have decided that I will seek some training/coaching for the next promotion board and more importantly, I will avoid Costa!