Give Yourself a FIGHTING Chance at Police Promotion…

Applying for promotion to Sergeant or Inspector is likely at some stage to acquaint you with your ‘fight or flight’ response. This blog outlines the response and provides some tips on how to manage it. Some individuals experience this at the thought of facing an interview. Others might not be affected until they step into the interview room, or are about to start delivering a presentation.


“What underscores fear in all its permutations is the feeling that you won’t be all right.” – Judith Orloff

A fight or flight reaction is an entirely natural response to the presence of something that is physically or mentally terrifying. It’s an involuntary reaction that represents the choices our ancestors faced to survive hostile environments, run away (flight) or stand and fight. Whilst we don’t tend to face dangerous predators as often today, it’s a protection measure carried through the ages. It’s a physiological chain reaction where adrenalin is secreted into the blood in readiness for action. This results in dilated pupils, increased heart rate, flushed or pale skin, with tensed muscles and trembling.

Sometimes it can kick in where there is no ‘real’ danger as such. Think of some phobias or a prank, where a word or suggestion (e.g. “Spider!”) can trigger a similar fight or flight response, possibly even a little scream!


2017.10 RabbitSea_PBayI offer coaching and mentoring for officers to help them achieve promotion success. In doing so, it’s not unusual for me to hear language where they describe themselves in various ways at the prospect of an impending board (usually at short notice):

  • “A lamb to the slaughter”
  • “A rabbit in the headlights”
  • “The demons in my head”
2017.10 Time_PBay
“The demons in my head”


This language alludes to a looming fear and often leads to flight mode, at least in their thoughts and feelings. But that’s ok for now. It’s an honest conversation before transition…

To fight mode!


A Reality Check

“If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all.” – Michelangelo

Chimp Paradox

Prof. Steve Peters describes the fears, worries or concerns you have as your ‘chimp brain’. These are strongly linked with your behaviour, often causing self-sabotaging actions. Articulating and rationalising these as part of your preparation for promotion can help you manage your thoughts and feelings, taming the chimp.

A reality check along these lines is an important part of the process. This can take time.

In the context of navigating a promotion selection process, it’s more helpful to think of this in terms of butterflies or knots in your stomach and of stress or tension resulting from uncertainty around what to expect. Researching and planning ahead can help to raise your awareness, reduce uncertainties and in turn build your confidence for the challenge ahead.

It takes time. Every year, vast cohorts of promotion candidates underestimate or fail to prioritise time for this step. What time will you allocate to your mastery?


Fight Mode

“It’s not the will to win that matters, everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” – Paul Bryant

Fight mode

You are aiming to convert your leadership aspirations into promotion success. There comes a time when you will need to fight. To make a stand.

Ok I know it’s a metaphor so here’s an analogy to go with it: Boxers train for months before a fight. With good reason; it’s about conditioning. Honing their mind and body to be the best they can be on the day. It underpins their will to win and to make that the only outcome… then they fight for it!

Your chances of surviving successfully are likely to depend upon the depth and breadth of your preparation beforehand, to give you a fighting mentality. So here are some tips to help you move from flight to fight mode and give the best possible account of yourself when it matters…

Body language: When in interview, lean forward. You may find yourself leaning back (in flight mode), whereas changing your body language to a more ‘bring it on’ stance will help change your mentality. Consider this and other insights about your body language in this TED Talk… it shapes who you are.


Managing anxiety
The result of managing anxiety!


Managing anxiety: Anxiety can play a big part in people’s fears about presenting themselves, driven by their ‘chimp brain’. Practice managing your anxiety in good time before your board.

Shameless plug: Widen your preparation and build your confidence by attending the last promotion Masterclass of 2017, or by downloading my guide to passing your police promotion interview.

“The workshop does help tame the monsters in your head, and realise you can achieve if you put the work in.” – Masterclass Feedback

I hope this blog has given you some food for thought in taming those demons, inspiring you to raise your self-awareness and get you into FIGHT mode… Bring it on!

Kind Regards, Steve

Wherever you are on your promotion journey, can help with guidance and support.