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Dodging the Dementors

Harry Potter wards off dementors by lake

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” – Albus Dumbledore

Aiming for promotion to advance your police career? Then no need to worry about finding ‘Dementors’, they’ll find you! There’s a lot going on in inside your head at this stage of your career, wondering how to make your hopes and dreams come true. So in an ideal world (ha!) you’d be lucky to receive only encouragement. After all, the CVF does dictate that we should ‘Deliver, SUPPORT and inspire‘! However, mood hoovers, energy vampires and the “TJF” brigade (aka dementors) do exist and they have a knack of making themselves known on the run up to police promotion selection processes.

Dementors, if you were not aware, are those terrifying ghostly apparitions in Harry Potter films, as previewed in the image above. These are creatures who possess the ability to drain all positive emotions and thoughts from human beings. In doing so, they trap their victims within their own miserable thoughts and consume their soul. Here’s the scene from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where the unwelcome visitors pounce…

Because of this power to drain all happiness and hope from people, they were employed as prison guards at Azkaban, effectively preventing prisoners from escaping by draining their will and ability to do so.

Personally speaking, I’m not a Harry Potter fan, but the analogy is clear. Taking a less phantomic approach, you’ll know there are mood-hoovers around the workplace. In policing, I’ve previously alluded to them as the ‘bystanders’, ‘critics’, and ‘victims’. Some of whom you’ll only encounter when seeking promotion, which is why many officers remain discreet about their ambitions and the comprehensive support from Rank Success they receive. I’ve described it previously as a culture of ‘back-biting on the greasy pole of promotion’.

Here’s a reality check for you: when entering and navigating your promotion selection process, not everyone wants you to do well! Going for promotion is a goal that is hard enough to achieve, without diluting your enthusiasm, hopes or positivity along the way, so you’ll need to look out for the Dementors and dodge them if you can.

Questioning and Uncertainty

As an aspiring police promotion candidate, you will naturally have uncertainty about the process and lots of questions, including:

All are covered in my eGuides and Masterclass. Now, I’ll put my hands up, the dramatic Dementors in Harry Potter are not exactly the creatures you will encounter. A well-meaning conversation, perhaps with a colleague you may have asked for some advice, is far more likely to hoover up your positivity. Opinions shared with you for example might include:

It’s not stuff to discourage or dissuade you intentionally, but it can have precisely that effect. 

It’s Your Journey…

“Not everyone will understand your journey. That’s fine. It’s not their journey to make sense of. It’s yours.” – Zero Dean

Dementors you encounter or approach for advice might be individuals quietly (or otherwise!) still smarting from the sting of disappointmentHaving not been supported for promotion or previously unsuccessful themselves in a process, they may easily have taken it personally. Others have given up, determined to stop anyone else succeeding if they can’t.

Of course, you may be lucky in finding a colleague with the time, knowledge and experience to support you in navigating your own force process and who is also willing to do so for as long as it may take. I began Rank Success exactly because that support didn’t exist at the time of my own career in policing. It remains sporadic and limited across UK police forces now.

It’s more likely therefore that you’ll find a rich vein of support and bespoke guidance, right under your nose, in which you can immerse yourself and use to ‘hit the ground running’ with effective, targeted, CVF-aligned preparation.

When people hear that you intend to go for promotion, you’ll also receive unsolicited advice, views or comments. The may say for example “If you ask me…” followed by:

This can be from colleagues genuinely frustrated with aspects of the job, or are expressing honest opinions that they simply don’t believe it’s worth the hassle and extra work to achieve success.

The Pursuit of Promotion

“In the long run, the pessimist may be proved right, but the optimist has a better time on the trip.” – Daniel L. Reardon

I’ve delivered dozens of promotion masterclasses and had one to one coach/mentor sessions and phone discussions with 100s of aspiring promotion candidates. I never cease to be amazed at how many still listen to dementors. Cops attach a disproportionate value to their views, even letting it hold them back from applying for promotion when opportunities arise. You would not believe how many individuals I encounter who are and were under the entirely mistaken impression they must have ‘acting or temporary’ experience before they can apply for promotion. It may help you build great evidence, but you’ll find it’s a completely made-up rule, given the countless testimonials I’ve received from successfully promoted officers who dodged the dementors on this one!

If promotion seems a big challenge from where you are now, that’s understandable. It probably is. The response is to work on your CPD plan to ensure you become the best candidate possible in the time you have available. My mantra is ‘prepare now, get it right first time’. For example, what does your PDR currently look like? It’s a good place to record your development and progress towards a future promotion opportunity.

While you are doing that and waiting for a selection process in future (and changing the film references a little!), ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ offers a wonderful heart-warming and inspirational story. It’s about someone who overcomes some significant barriers and obstacles in achieving a difficult career goal. If you’ve not seen this film, it’s the true story of Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith). In short the plotline goes… tired of Chris’s professional failures his wife decides to separate, leaving him financially broke with an unpaid internship in a brokerage firm, oh and custody of their young son. 

It’s all uphill for him and his son from that moment. Grit, mental toughness and a growth mindset are important elements of the film and in Chris’s approach to being a good father whilst staying focused on his goal to become a broker. My favourite scene is where Chris’s child (Played by Jaden Smith) is playing basketball…

As kids do, he commentates out loud. “Hey dad, I am going pro. I am going pro”. In his mind’s eye he’s there.

Chris says to his son, “Okay, yeah. I don’t know you know… You’ll probably be as good as I was. That’s the kind of way it works you know. I was below average you know, so you’ll probably ultimately rank… somewhere around there you know… so… I really – You’ll excel at a lot of things, just not this. I don’t want you shooting this ball around all day and night, Alright?”

“Alright. Okay.” his son replies.

Any dementors listening in to this would be seriously impressed. His son stops playing straight away and puts his basketball into a carrier bag. His self-belief and hopes are crushed.

Chris immediately regrets his words, realising their instant effect on his son. He reflects on them before uttering to his son some of the most powerful, encouraging and inspiring life advice you’ll ever hear…

“Hey! Don’t ever let somebody tell you…you can’t do something. Not even me. Alright?”

“Alright” his son replies.

Chris continues “You got a dream. You got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves… they want to tell you, you can’t do it. If you want something, go get it.”

Here’s the scene:

I love finding sources of inspiration in music, literature, and as in this particular blog, from the movies. The fact that this film is based on the true story of Chris Garner’s experiences makes it all the more inspiring.

3 Inspiring Lessons…

“Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese proverb

Reality check? Many candidates fail on their first attempt at promotion. Some will simply dust themselves off, adopt a growth mindset and go again.

Disappointment, frustration and feelings of rejection mean others will simply give up. Of these a proportion may become Dementors. Over time, they morph into those guards at Azkaban. Like them, they will perform their duty of diluting positive dreams, hopes and aspirations.

I believe that ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ offers some inspiring lessons, for promotion candidates. Three are alluded to below. Alongside each, I have paired feedback from successful Rank Success customers who clearly demonstrated the same attributes of self-belief, personal resilience and grit portrayed in the film. True stories of realising potential in ‘The Pursuit of Promotion’…

Lesson 1: Never give up, keep trying.

“I downloaded your Inspector toolkit and after 12 years of trying, I passed!” – Jonathan, Inspector

Lesson 2: It’s okay if other people don’t believe in your dream as long as you believe in yourself.

“The word “can’t”, was never in my vocabulary until I failed another attempt at the process. The ‘sorry you failed’ feedback kept repeating in my thoughts, tying my confidence in knots. After reading and listening to a vast amount of Steve’s material, I slowly started to find the old me. 

To say I am over the moon is an understatement. Not only did I pass, I passed with flying colours. I can say hand on heart, I would not be writing this without Steve’s fantastic online promotion support. If you have self-doubt, lack direction where to start or need that focus to start believing in yourself, you are not alone, we all feel it, it just takes courage to admit you need support and direction.” – Sharon, Chief Inspector

Lesson 3: Set-backs should not stop you from progressing.

“After four previous attempts at promotion to Inspector over 8 years, this was my final attempt. Steve provided a very positive and complimentary outlook on preparation. On my 5th attempt I passed my promotion process ” – David, Detective Inspector

Whilst lots of promotion candidates don’t succeed first time, I believe that’s mainly because they don’t give themselves a long enough ‘run up’ and/or don’t seek effective support to know how to prepare. When they do know how to prepare, and sufficiently far ahead, the chance and occurrence of first-time success is suddenly not at all unusual.

Finally, wherever you are on your promotion journey, remember to dodge the Dementors, stay positive and aim high. I wish you the very best and if you need more CVF-related inspiration, check out this free blog too. I’ll leave the final words to Chris Gardner…

“Don’t ever let someone tell you, you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream, you got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves; they want to tell you – you can’t do it. You want something, go get it.”

Kind Regards, Steve

Want to go further right now? Hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit and/or download my Police Promotion Masterclass. You can also contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videoseGuidesa podcast, plus free blog content both here and via my Police Hour guest articles.

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