UK police promotion interviews and assessments for Sergeant, Inspector and Chief Inspector are increasingly interested in diversity and inclusion awareness. In Part 1 of this free blog series, I explained some of the basic definitions and concepts, discussed why this is important to your police leadership, gave some example interview questions, and outlined the expectations of you as a supervisor and manager. Here in this meaty Part 2 (of 3), I provide more information on preparatory reading, understanding some of the controversies around DEI, share further thoughts on inclusive language, and of course give more practice interview questions along the way.
Effective Preparation for Changing Promotion Landscapes
“Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is making the mix work.” – Andres Tapia
I have previously blogged on the ‘Police Promotion Postcode Lottery’ across UK forces and the ever-changing landscape of selection processes. This is why I strongly advocate promotion candidates commit to a ‘depth and breadth’ of focused preparation to help get it right first time, converting your leadership aspirations into promotion, whatever the process. One new example of these changes I mentioned in DEI Part 1 is Kent Police, who are overtly increasing focus on diversity and inclusion matters as part of their Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). Kent Police have recently launched a ‘Diversity and Inclusion Academy’ as part of progressing their equality objectives. In the context of promotion, they have also introduced an initial DEI ‘pre-board’. The diversity and inclusion pre-board is a promotion interview held in addition and prior to the usual boards based around the Competency and Values Framework (CVF) behaviours. The interview questions are still assessed against structured behaviours and values. However, the subject matter of the questions is specific: How will you value diversity, promote equality, and facilitate inclusion among colleagues and the community?
Whether your knowledge around diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) is tested or assessed in a ‘pre board’ in your own force or not, you can reflect and learn from this development and use it to focus your preparation given the clear growing importance of DEI. This will also help prevent you letting yourself get tripped up by forward-facing questions or what appear to be booby-trap questions!
Being prepared means knowing what to expect. Some themes you may be expected to respond to questions about, or share your knowledge of, might include:
The Equality Act 2010, discrimination and the nine Protected Characteristics defined within it (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion/belief, sex, sexual orientation)
The Public Sector Equality Duty and it’s three overarching goals which drive most organisations’ local ‘equality/inclusion objectives’
Your force’s equality/inclusion objectives and the Police Code of Ethics
What is your current level of knowledge about these areas? Start building from there! You might find the following video from the Equality and Human Rights Commission a useful and succinct explainer for protected characteristics:
Every Leader is a Reader!
“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” – Harry S. Truman
Reading around these themes is important to help cement your understanding and build your evidence to anticipate police promotion questions. Remember that everyone has protected characteristics, so you will more than likely have leadership experience and evidence which relates.
The Code of Ethics (which underpin the CVF values) and Policing Vision 2025 sections on DEI I mention in Part 1 are of course a good start. Particularly useful sources may be those which will help you understand what might otherwise appear abstract concepts, making them more concrete and relatable everyday experiences. Matthew Syed’s book, ‘Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking’, is a good start. I should include it in my ‘All Leaders Read’ YouTube playlist at some point! In it, he argues for the power of bringing people together who think differently from one another. I particularly like the following quote from it, moving thinking away from tokenist ‘keyword bingo’ to helping people absorb the essence of diversity into their leadership actions:
“Diversity isn’t some optional add on, it isn’t the icing on the cake. Rather, it is the basic ingredient of collective intelligence.”
Pigeon-holing people according to one-dimensional protected characteristics seems a popular discourse today. However, the ultimate diversity is recognising every individual, including their different perspectives, experiences, and capabilities they each bring to a team. For example, I’ve blogged before on the importance of thinking differently and valuing neurodiversity, plus you may find helpful these 8 simple everyday inclusive leadership tips from the National Police Autism Association (NPAA).
In terms of leadership capabilities and the CVF (more on that in Part 3!), this relates very closely to your emotional intelligence. Meanwhile I recommend you read up on John Adair’s ‘Action-Centred Leadership’ model as part of your CPD, which combines the needs of the team, the task, and the individual; it is just as relevant for practical leadership/inclusion guidance today as it was when published nearly 50 years ago!
Here are some example practice promotion interview questions to further provoke your thinking while you are at it (for more, see my ‘Interview Success’ premium eGuide):
What does diversity mean to you? Why is it important in policing?
How will you build and lead a diverse team?
How are the 9 protected characteristics relevant to your leadership?
It will help your confidence a great deal if you are able to speak knowledgably on these issues. The fact you’re reading this blog is a great start to developing your awareness! Effective preparation will also require some knowledge of your force equality objectives, which point to the right thing to do. For example, here’s Essex Police’s DEI Strategy, which includes the statement below which emphasises my earlier points that everyone’s characteristics are protected and inclusion involving all characteristics, regardless of whether in the majority or minority. If you’re working in the Met, the Met Police’s STRIDE Diversity & Inclusion Strategy 2021-25 is essential reading. You can also prepare by considering what support is available to you when taking ownership, making decisions and taking positive actions to meet the needs of your colleagues and the public.
“Everyone should consider themselves included, younger and older, people with visible or hidden disabilities, people who are Black, Asian, White or mixed, heterosexual women and men, LGB+ people, trans people, travellers, people of different faiths and none, people of different health or socio-economic status, and people who think differently.” – Vernal Scott Diversity and Inclusion Manager (Essex Police)
A Dragonfly-Eye View of the Ideological Battleground
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” – Aristotle
DEI can be a controversial subject, drawing conflicting, polarising and strong opinions from all sides. Not least because protected characteristics are so personal, and so many people closely relate them to their individual identity and belief system. You might consider Aristotle’s quote above as a measure of how innovative and open-minded a person can be. Can you think about a controversial subject/idea and just consider it in your head? If someone exposes you to a new idea, can you apply critical thinking, explore its strengths, weaknesses, and apply it to your own leadership development and considerations? McKinsey describes this approach as having a ‘dragonfly-eye view’ of the world.
Consider taking a ‘dragonfly-eye view’ as another way of looking at DEI matters. Dragonflies have large, compound eyes, with thousands of lenses and photoreceptors, by analogy they see multiple perspectives all at once, like a kaleidoscope. Think of this as widening the aperture on an issue or problem, viewing it through multiple lenses, while also taking a more strategic perspective floating above and considering the overall picture, rather than being embroiled among the battles between various sides. This is not just important to the CVF values such as impartiality and fairness but is a central part of developing your emotional intelligence, which is why DEI questions are often asked in relation to the CVF competency, ’We Are Emotionally Aware’.
This short opinion piece for example might draw opinions ranging from “completely bland factual information” to “horrendously transphobic hate speech”. Whatever your views, it is important you are aware of alternative perspectives to think them through and make them meaningful to your behaviours and considerations in the workplace.
You can also view things from the legal, ethical and moral perspectives. The legal perspective arising from the PSED and Equality Act 2010 discussed earlier. The ethical perspective derives from the Code of Ethics for policing, underpinning expectations that police officers will act in accordance with the Code to respect everyone’s right to be treated with respect, fairness, and dignity. The moral perspective is simply that provision of an inclusive policing service of the highest standards, is the right thing to do. Here’s another wide-ranging perspective on the facets of diversity and inclusion issues by a conflict resolution expert.
Red Pill or Blue Pill?
“You take the blue pill…the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill…you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” – Morpheus
In the film The Matrix, Neo (Keanu Reeves) is offered a choice between the red or blue pill by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). Each pill represents something. Taking the blue pill is to choose a life of ignorance, refusing to shatter the illusion you’re living in. The red pill offers the path of finding out the truth, providing an opportunity to forever change your knowledge and perception of reality. In the context of the film, taking the red pill means Neo will discover he is basically a slave to a dream world sculpted by machines. Of course, there is no going back after learning something so shocking. If he were to take the blue pill, he would continue be imprisoned within a comfortable simulation. Neo decides to take the red pill and the fantastical film trilogy is history (though Hollywood is soon to ‘resurrect’ this story in December 2021!).
When it comes to issues of DEI and your leadership development, which pill will you take?
The Blue Pill will keep you comfortable, staying as you are, sticking to what you know, stuck in your current rank as the world moves on and passes you by. You may be confused and bemused to the change of focus for promotion and development happening around you, at best a bystander. Keep what you know? Maintain status quo? Taking the blue pill and ignoring national developments will place your leadership prospects in peril. You will be blissfully unaware of why you didn’t, but others did, progress, maybe expending energy by making complaints or challenging the process.
Or take the red pill and explore the rabbit hole, see how deep it goes? Raise your awareness of varied perspectives. Developing a ‘dragonfly eye’ view of various perspectives, developing your empathy, social and emotional awareness. Fear not, you’ll not be painfully reborn like Neo in a liquid cocoon within a menacing world. Instead, you will apply a growth mindset to help you support people in the workplace as a leader, manager and supervisor.
Here’s one rabbit hole entrance to explore on ‘sex-based rights’, to practice viewing perspectives through your dragonfly-eye. What are your thoughts on reading that article through? Here’s another gateway to the rabbit hole, recognised as a challenging and emotive piece of work in arriving at the perspective that, “For many sports, the inclusion of transgender people, fairness and safety cannot co-exist in a single competitive model.” Your thoughts? Still thinking? And that’s just one topical facet relating to two protected characteristics (gender reassignment, sex). October also hosts Black History Month, ADHD Awareness Month, while also includes Dyspraxia/Dyslexia Awareness Week, World Mental Health Day, World Coming Out Day, and World Menopause Day; it may be a timely opportunity for you to research some of these themes and how you might be more inclusive to the relevant protected characteristics (race, disability, sexual orientation, sex).
Just remember, whenever you surface from the rabbit hole, the context is about your role as a police leader, manager, and supervisor. You will be a more informed person for doing this research, using your knowledge of the zeitgeist to create/maintain an inclusive environment in which police officers and staff can innovate, thrive, and excel. Psychological safety is also important to this environment, with research showing this is an important linked factor in team performance. Psychological safety also helps remove the fear of stigma, as outlined recently during the Disabled Police Association conference.
You may wish to think these things through using the dragonfly eye principle. How many other perspectives might you need to consider? Essentially, what commitment will you make to develop your knowledge around these issues, to help you succeed in promotion and ultimately become a better leader? None of this is far from the basic Peelian Principles or indeed the oath you personally swore upon joining the police…
“I do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.” – Police Constable’s Attestation
Ultimately, whatever the issues (be it protests about climate change, BLM, or vaccine passports) it is well-known that policing is not there to take sides, but ultimately understand and consider different points of view. The following are some further controversial DEI concepts where adopting a ‘dragonfly-eye view’ of the world can also be helpful:
– Critical race theory & ‘white privilege’
– Unconscious bias & ‘microagressions’
Intersectionality for example describes the cumulative and combined effects of multiple forms of discrimination (e.g., based on class, racism, and sex), which overlap especially in the experiences of marginalised individuals or groups. Other words for intersectionality include parallel, connecting or coexisting. However, this Merriam-Webster article on intersectionality also acknowledges the controversy, “Intersectionality isn’t a term without controversy. Some people object to the technical nature of the term and the concepts it addresses. It’s been described by some as divisive. Those objections notwithstanding, it looks like it may very well be a word that’s here to stay.”
It is notable that several forces have already adopted the above ideas/theories to support their equality objectives. For example and like many public sector organisations, Devon and Cornwall police are rolling out ‘Unconscious Bias’ training for all its staff. More recently in late 2021, Devon and Cornwall are also offering ‘Bystander Intervention Training’ to help people understand and challenge ‘microagressions’, aiming to make the workplace more inclusive to all characteristics.
If you’re not aware of these terms and the more strategic (Inspector +) perspective of how these issues are playing out in the wider world, I suggest you research and reflect. I’ve provided a couple of links to get you started. Then ask yourself the following questions for some self-coaching: What do I know now? How might these be relevant to colleagues and communities in my force? Now imagine being asked the following question at a promotion board:
“Please share with the Board your understanding of the term ‘intersectionality’, and how it will apply to your leadership of diverse teams as a newly promoted Sergeant / Inspector / Chief Inspector?”
Lessons of History, Language, and Poetry
“I will either find a way or make one.” – Hannibal
One of the ‘dragonfly’ lenses might be how you are currently thinking about organisational language, because it changes. Whatever debates exist around terminology, as a promotion candidate (in a police force aiming to be an employer of choice for all communities), you will need to find a way to developing your understanding. Otherwise, you risk being at a disadvantage when it comes to responding to focused or bespoke DEI questions as part of a promotion selection process.
You should already be aware of what may no longer be considered ‘acceptable banter’. You will also need to familiarise yourself with a growing library of terms being used to be more inclusive to different groups, many of which are mentioned in this blog series. These terms may be new and unfamiliar language for you, or they may not. Either way, being prepared to have a discussion as part of a promotion interview specifically focused on diversity, equality and inclusivity is clearly a current expectation in selecting future police leaders.
I mentioned in Part 1 how diversity is ultimately in the 200-year foundation of UK policing, via the Peelian Principle, ‘the police are the public and the public are the police’. It has long been known for its importance to build strong teams with diversity of thought, as articulated excellently by Matthew Syed and others today. However, it goes thousands of years further back than that for the history-savvy. For example, after the defeat and slaughter of 86,000 Romans at the Battle of Cannae by the diverse forces and tactics commanded by Hannibal Barca, Rome needed to renew its army. In the years that followed, Rome was forced to recruit from her prisons, colonies and many different cultures. Having acquired a more diverse army, and with new respective strengths, Rome was ultimately able to defeat Hannibal in Africa, having learned his approach and by using his tactics against him.
As an aspiring leader seeking to learn, grow and to continuously develop in a VUCA policing environment, you may find yourself challenged by having to think critically and look at issues from different perspectives. As a leader you will be required to maximise potential through enhanced inclusivity and by valuing diversity. How would you do this? What are your thoughts about the approach you might take?
I’ve had conversations with many aspiring candidates who are well ahead of the curve and with those unaware of the zeitgeist. This is where dragonfly-eye thinking might be helpful. With that in mind, another way of looking at the concept of evolving language/terminology can be through the lens of poetry.
The poem ‘Keep Quiet’ by Kenneth Mikkelsen (Leadership Poems: @KenHMikkelsen) is one that resonated with me on National Poetry Day (7 October), making me think about inclusion and the impact, attitudes to and changing nature of language. Here’s the poem to read and reflect upon:
Some choose to think through a lens of political correctness, others a lens that sees language change as part of a naturally-evolving process. Leaders will embrace and implement different ways of thinking on DEI, to help facilitate necessary culture and environment for people in their organisation to be able to thrive, innovate and excel.
In essence, it is simply the right thing to do.
I hope you found this second blog of my DEI series insightful. In Part 3, I shall explore relevant sections of the CVF behaviours, how reasonable adjustments can help you succeed, and the power of leading by example… watch this space!
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 or download my Police Promotion Masterclass, or contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videos, eGuides, a podcast, plus free blog content both here and via my Police Hour guest articles.