Don’t Promote Past Happiness, or Preparation

There is something I’ve come to realize along my career ladder climb. It seemed I was really good at what I did just before promoting, but not so much after the promotion. This is the same story I hear from a lot of officers that promote and then find themselves disillusioned and not as happy with their new-found responsibility.

Most department’s promotional process is based on what someone can prove up on the day of a test. Even with posted study materials, job description, out-of-class duty and recognized credentials, most candidates that promote don’t have the full picture of needed skill proficiency to walk in the rank without looking like that newborn deer trying to find its legs.

A good succession plan should be more than something in writing that tells someone what they should know.

Succession Planning means actually giving responsibility as well as training to those who are “upwardly mobile.” It also means to train them with real world exposure to what the job expects them to handle. Today’s officers cannot prepare to be the next generation without departmental leadership giving up all the secrets. When the newly promoted officer is not only trained for the job but also familiar with expectations, their “happiness” will most likely continue up the ladder as well.

A formal plan is essential, but really needs to be backed up with an ongoing hands on mentoring program. The mentors in the department should be very adept at passing on the lessons learned and current trends. Encourage members to become embedded in our profession. Support participation in local, regional, State and national associations. This fosters leadership diversity and improves the chances of breaking “the way we’ve always done it” syndrome.

When you have a good understanding of the expectations of a promotion and the challenges associated with the new responsibilities, you might just find your happy place and lock-in on the career ladder to be the best at what you do.  I know a lot of chief officers that have said, “if they knew then what they know now”, they would have settled in where they felt most productive and happy. On the other hand, you might be one of the few up for the challenge, to be a leader in the greatest profession in the world.


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