Second Open Letter to Police Scotland Promotion Candidates…

“There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

The police promotion process for sergeant to inspector rank in Police Scotland has opened and hundreds of applicants are working hard to the impending deadlines this Summer. Promotion applications will be assessed against Level Two of the Competency and Values Framework (CVF). Many officers will have tried and failed before, for all manner of reasons; this time can be different…

The process is entirely new for most candidates. I’ve had a lot of enquiries and a rush of dedicated promotion candidates download my guides in preparation for success. I’ve responded to many officers wanting to know more on how to prepare, smartly, for their opportunity this year. This blog brings together more of the Scotland-specific guidance I’ve been giving of late, and is a sequel to my initial ‘Open Letter to Police Scotland Promotion Candidates’. Both these blogs are also a useful resource to support police promotion candidates in any force!

How Are Your Values?

Police Scotland promotion values

“Values aren’t buses. They’re not supposed to get you anywhere. They’re supposed to define who you are.” – Jennifer Crusie

The questions and guidance for promotion application processes are sometimes themselves a stiff ‘paper sift’ of candidates! The information provided is sometimes described in unfamiliar language to the more practically minded operational cops. For example, ‘competencies’, ‘functions’, ‘dimensions’ and ‘descriptors’ may as well be from a sci-fi movie to some! It helps to try and break down their meaning in your own way. The questions are there to ensure that individuals considered for promotion are those able to demonstrate the values/behaviours required in this era of policing. 

Most are enduring ethical values in policing such as honesty and integrity, while others in the assessment frameworks are aligned to relatively new national standards like the Code of Ethics. Learning to love the CVF is a good place to start! If you read nothing else, here is a key document for Police Scotland (hidden in plain sight by the Scottish Police Authority!); it outlines in detail the Police Scotland values:




Human Rights

Remember, ‘competency’ is just another word for ‘behaviour’, and police promotion processes are competency-based, i.e. you must demonstrate the required behaviours and will be assessed on that. Police Scotland even lists them in great detail! Here’s an extract for ‘Integrity’:

Police Scotland promotion integrity values and behaviours

This is why I’m an advocate for candidates to put Facebook & Twitter scrolling on the back burner and instead use that time to do targeted reading as part of their preparation. These behaviours are the only visible part of you, so your assessors use them to determine whether your values match that of Police Scotland.

Iceberg of behaviours and beliefs in promotion assessment
What lies beneath the ‘visible’ you…


Self awareness in police promotion

“The process of going from confusion to understanding is a precious, even emotional, experience that can be the foundation of self-confidence.” – Brian Greene

Promotion is awarded to those offering the best future for the organisation. You need an overwhelming appetite to advance within what is highly competitive environment. You might be forgiven for thinking police promotion boards, interviews and wider selection processes are a test of your mental toughness.

More accurately, police promotion methods are perhaps more of a test of your self-awareness. In itself, this is an element of emotional intelligence, arguably the most important attribute of effective leadership, especially for senior leaders. The CVF even describes it as an assessable competency: We Are Emotionally Aware. Here’s a link to another blog on self awareness and values, which explains why it can be hard (certainly initially) to write about your values or what is important to you. It also highlights why self-development is topical for promotion processes. 

Getting ‘into’ values is an introspective thought process; no one can do that for you. You may find that with this aspect there is also a word limit that adds a level of difficulty; the underlying message relating to the Inspector and Chief Inspector role is, can you also be succinct? Remember that written police promotion applications are a formal assessment of your written communication ability.

Why You? Why Now?

Police leadership questions

“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The Vision pulls you.” – Steve Jobs

Almost all promotion application questions are essentially asking:

Why you? Why now? 

In fact some police promotion candidates have previously been asked to write a letter to their Chief Constable on ‘Why should you be promoted, and why now?’ Sometimes there may be a brief or instructions e.g. to focus any evidence around your values and wider policing values. Imagining you are writing such a letter to your Chief Constable is one good way to think about this.

If you are ‘stuck’, here are some questions to help you start thinking about the kind of content that features in successful police promotion applications:

What’s important to you personally about how you lead/manage/supervise others? 

What are your own personal values? How have you discovered these? 

How do your personal values ‘mesh’ with the Police Scotland values and the Police Code of Ethics? e.g. are you a good fit with the organisation? 

How do you personally demonstrate the Police Scotland values?

How do the values affect you, or relate to the way you behave as a leader, manager and supervisor? 

What guides you in doing the right thing? 

Why is any of this important?

Focusing on the ‘Why’ is an important part of emotionally-aware leadership, e.g. watch this video for more ideas…

Thinking Outside de Bono

Thinking for promotion

“In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.” – Donald Miller

It can be hard to start working with those questions. Cops are more used to task focused questions, so how do you even start to think about this? Here are some examples and points to trigger your thoughts as to how you might currently be working in alignment with and demonstrating policing values:

  • Using the NDM as a ‘thinking tool’ to ensure policing decisions you make are aligned to shared values (e.g. fairness, respect, transparency, integrity)
  • Recording your rationale to demonstrate personal/organisational accountability and to support scrutiny e.g. Defensible, justified, proportionate decision making
  • Initiating discussions around the NDM to support and develop confidence and decision making ability amongst your officers, teams and staff; helping them to make ethical decisions while supporting individual, team or organisational learning.
  • Demonstrating respect for example by being inclusive, listening, seeking views, opinions, and contributions. Giving others the chance to be heard. 
  • Building trust through your own behaviours and communication.
  • Your reflective thinking? How is that going?

See the guidance you have around each of your force values to develop more ideas and thoughts about how they link directly to how you behave. 

The Killer Question

The killer question in police promotion

“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

How are you improving? This is a common underlying theme in promotion applications. Aspiring cops are not as focused as they might be on this aspect, until it surfaces in a promotion selection process. It is why I include ‘Learning’ as part of my ‘ENAMEL’ mnemonic tool for effective responses to promotion interview questions.

Here’s a killer question:

What have you done to develop yourself or anyone else in the last twelve months?

It can be a question that can determine your success or otherwise at promotion interviews, but it’s good to reflect on regardless of your specific process. You may also have additional application guidance or interview instructions e.g. ‘structure any evidence provided specifically to the six CVF competencies’. 

Taking responsibility for driving your own personal and professional development was the No.1 recommendation in the College of Policing’s review of police leadership. So what have you done, or what are you doing, towards becoming a Sergeant, Inspector or Chief Inspector? Here’s some more food for thought: 

  • How are you developing colleagues and mentoring others?
  • What action have you taken to find a mentor/coach? How is that going?
  • What academic or other CPD learning activities have you engaged in? 
  • Do you have a development plan in place? How is this helping you? 
  • What role-specific development experiences can you allude to?  e.g. courses, Acting/Temporary promotion experience?
  • What have you learned in other roles as a leader or in policing experiences? e.g. About yourself? Your values? Your leadership style(s)?

Here’s a final article on leadership and management that may support your wider thinking and perspective, especially around the value of leadership (yes leadership is also a value). Personally, I like the line “you don’t need a title or leadership position to lead” (it can be more by influence/impact), the focus is on authenticity, and the question “how are you demonstrating on a daily basis that you care for the people you lead?”

Finally, here’s further information to support your reflection around leadership and values – it links back to emotional intelligence:

I hope that is helpful for now. I wish you every success with your upcoming promotion application. If you want further and more advanced support in your preparation, there are options here, such as downloading a guide or contacting me for dedicated 1-1 coaching.

Yours Faithfully, Steve

If you found this blog helpful, you can hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, attend my Police Promotion Masterclass or contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a bunch of free guides plus free blog content both here on my Rank Success Blog and via my Police Hour articles.

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