In TSOG Chapter 1, we considered the following potential interview question about operating ‘in the grey’:
“Senior & police leaders often work in grey areas. How will you operate effectively and efficiently in the grey?”
This blog provides a valuable extract from the new toolkit for UK police officers seeking promotion to Inspector and Chief Inspector. This includes a bespoke and unique strategy infographic, demonstrating some of the ‘pushes & pulls’ upon officers operating at a more strategic level; it’s something I also cover in more depth as part of my market-leading masterclasses.
Cynics may argue that Chief Inspectors form a cohort of ‘willing workhorses’. Between them, they shoulder the significant workload/burden of implementing plans, projects, and change initiatives delegated by more senior officers. While the salary difference to Inspector is not great, the Chief Inspector rank serves as the gateway for promotion to Superintendent. This includes a very significant salary jump and accompanying pension benefits for Superintendents; part of the attraction for those aspiring to vertical career progression.
However, promotion beyond Inspector is not for the faint-hearted! So starting to think about how you will operate in the grey will generate some ideas and helpful insights…
“Pressure can burst a pipe or make a diamond.” – Nate Silver.
Operating In the Grey – Pushes & Pulls
“The most effective tool to develop your strategic thinking skills is that you are led by someone who is highly strategic.” – Institute of Knowledge & Leadership
The above graphic provides an aid for thinking about operating effectively ‘in the grey’. Pushes and pulls upon both the Chief Inspector and Superintendent roles are included, along with similarities. If you aim to operate effectively in the grey, things don’t simply stop at CVF Level 2. This graphic depicts a ‘bridge’ that transcends the federated ranks, encapsulating considerations and areas of commonality for both senior roles, despite them being assessed at different levels.
Whilst Chief Inspector and Superintendent are assessed at different levels of the CVF for promotion selection processes, the operational pushes and pulls on their leadership and command are very similar. Therefore, when preparing for promotion to Chief Inspector, awareness of this with one eye on Superintendent is helpful.
The Pushes in both roles include operational decision making. For example, deployment to need/demand, tactical deployments, resourcing priorities and decisions and golden hour response to major crime and critical incidents. Some of this is affected by the actions of others (the grey); with dependency on the effectiveness of individual encounters, decisions and discretion of others.
The Pulls in both roles include operational demands. For example, support for victims and the vulnerable, reporting and dealing with crime, delivering to public expectation and recognising what ‘consent’ means (i.e. policing Legitimacy). Some of this is affected by the availability of people, money, time or equipment; as dictated by reality, budgets and political decisions. I.e. yet more of ‘the grey’.
All this is balanced and considered as part of your own values-based leadership, to guide you through uncertainty. Think of the Code of Ethics as the ‘beating heart’ at the centre of the NDM. Whatever uncertainty or demands you face, you can be reassured that your decisions will always be guided by a strong set of principles and shared values to support you in ‘doing the right thing’ when you find yourself operating ‘in the grey’.
Chief Inspector Grey…
“Chief Inspectors plan, manage and monitor operational policing activity.” – College of Policing
The Chief Inspector rank itself has been subject of debate over recent years. For example, is it a rank that is even needed in policing? You may have to bite your lip in debate, but the answer seems to be ‘yes and no’, depending who you talk to. Some forces have experimented with removing the rank, before reintroducing it. Others have dabbled in other ways, like promoting Inspectors straight to Superintendent. Are such shades of grey still in play? What are your thoughts about retaining or discontinuing this ambiguous rank?
The previous Policing Promotion Framework (PPF) made little distinction between the Inspector and Chief Inspector rank. Here, both were being incorporated under ‘middle manager’. That’s a similar approach taken with the implementation of the CVF, where both these federated ranks are assessed for promotion selection at Level 2. However, there’s a much sharper distinction for Superintendent candidates, who are assessed at CVF Level 3.
Compare and Contrast: Notice the different guidance in the CVF for the competency, ‘We are innovative and open minded’. Below are descriptors used to assess Sergeant, Inspector and Chief Inspector promotion candidates (Level 2) against that for more senior levels. Notice the Level 3 descriptors depict a significant ‘step up’ in expectations once you hit more senior ranks. The Chief Inspector rank is acting as the bridge…
Level 2 (Sergeant, Inspector, Chief Inspector)
- I explore a number of different sources of information and use a variety of tools when faced with a problem and look for good practice that is not always from policing.
- I am able to spot opportunities or threats which may influence how I go about my job in the future by using knowledge of trends, new thinking about policing and changing demographics in the population.
- I am flexible in my approach, changing my plans to make sure that I have the best impact.
- I encourage others to be creative and take appropriate risks.
- I share my explorations and understanding of the wider internal and external environment.
Level 3 (Superintendent and above)
- I implement, test and communicate new and far-reaching ways of working that can radically change our organisational cultures, attitudes and performance.
- I provide space and encouragement to help others stand back from day-to-day activities, in order to review their direction, approach and how they fundamentally see their role in policing. This helps them to adopt fresh perspectives and identify improvements.
- I work to create an innovative learning culture, recognising and promoting innovative activities.
- I lead, test and implement new, complex and creative initiatives that involve multiple stakeholders, create significant impact and drive innovation outside of my immediate sphere.
- I carry accountability for ensuring that the police service remains up to date and at the forefront of global policing.
“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu
Competition for Inspector and Chief Inspector positions is highly competitive. So, just imagine being asked this question on your promotion board:
“What have you done to develop yourself beyond the next rank?”
Anticipating questions like that can be useful. If successful as a Chief Inspector, you are effectively being added to a pool of future Superintendent candidates. In promoting you, the panel are investing in your future potential, so what are you doing now to get ahead? If you haven’t thought about this, you may be at a disadvantage to someone who has and can respond meaningfully (like Chief Inspector Grey). The pushes and pulls graphic blends some of the operational perspective and considerations of the Chief Inspector and Superintendent roles for you.
What is clear is that you as you progress your career towards more senior leadership roles, the technical skills, abilities and knowledge that may have served you well to date become less important. Such skills may even hinder your ambition. The emphasis changes to being about developing and using your interpersonal skills to influence, build and maintain relationships. This ‘transition’ comes with a requirement to develop your strategic thinking as part of a senior leader’s skillset. The good news is that there exists lots of information and resources to develop the strategic thinking skills, necessary for you to operate effectively through shades of grey into the future.
I provide bespoke guidance on strategic thinking in the Inspector & Chief Inspector promotion evidence guide if you want to accelerate your preparation…
Until next time, good luck on your promotion journey and watch out for some new new free videos and something exciting coming in early 2021…
Kind Regards, 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 videos, guides plus free blog content both here on my Rank Success Blog and via my Police Hour articles.