Rank Success on Leaving the Police Service

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Former Royal Marine and Detective Inspector Steve Cooper left the police in 2014. Since then he has developed ranksuccess.co.uk, a niche business in the coaching and mentoring sector. Steve specialises in supporting serving officers to ‘make the jump’ to leadership positions at the ranks of Sergeant and Inspector.

He’s clearly made impressive progress against a national backdrop of reduced vacancies and increasing competition for promotion. It seems more ‘astute’ officers are starting to invest in themselves to discover what works in converting leadership aspirations into promotion success.

We caught up with Steve to get some insights and tips into his own experiences post retirement.

WHAT GAVE YOU THE IDEA FOR RANK SUCCESS?

The idea for Rank Success occurred when, as line manager I was endorsing promotion applications for my own staff across a massive geographic area. I realised many capable officers with leadership potential, were making the same mistakes when it came to promotion selection. These included preparing at the last minute under entirely self imposed pressure, basic knowledge gaps about the role and functions of supervision and not structuring operational experience professionally to support a promotion application. Many also failed to recognise that a promotion board is essentially a leadership interview.

HOW DID YOU ADDRESS THAT?

Initially, I held a couple of guidance sessions after work for a few officers. Others heard about it and turned up unexpectedly. Officers were successful in the boards that followed and things kind of grew from there.

I started receiving enquiries from officers in other forces including an amusing one from an individual who had been at a wedding and had heard ‘from a cousin’s friend’s brother about a DI down south helping cops going for promotion’… is that you?’ (It was I!)

Three years before retiring, I started researching the need for support for promotion candidates. I ran workshops and spoke to officers, I wrote down what I believed could help. That turned into my most popular download:  ‘A Guide to Passing Your Police Promotion Interview’

WHAT DID YOU DO TO PREPARE AHEAD OF
YOUR OWN RETIREMENT?

As part of my CPD, I had previously completed the Institute of Leadership and Management’s (ILM) Certificate in Leadership Coaching and Mentoring. During my career, I had always supported staff and colleagues preparing for promotion or job applications and I really enjoyed the ILM course. My force also provided useful training to help with interviewing staff for new positions. So, when it came to planning ahead for retirement and thinking about setting up Rank Success, my research confirmed that the Institute of Leadership & Management is the premium awarding body for coaching qualification in the world. I took the opportunity to study for the Institute’s post graduate qualification, successfully achieving the ILM’s Certificate in Executive Coaching and Leadership Mentoring. I found this really challenging but also very rewarding. The tutors Tom Sneddon and Karon Clark are highly qualified experienced executive coaches, both inspiring individuals and very supportive.

The feedback I have received from newly promoted Sergeants and Inspectors since I retired, is developing into a legacy I am proud of, but the challenge going forward is to grow it exponentially. For me it is very much about ‘sending the lift back down’ to bring as many new leaders up as I can.

TESTIMONY FROM SERVING SERGEANTS AND INSPECTORS ON YOUR SITE CLEARLY DEMONSTRATES THAT YOU PROVIDE A HIGHLY VALUED SERVICE. WHY DO YOU BELIEVE OFFICERS SEEK YOU OUT FOR SUPPORT?

That’s a good question because you’ll always find strong views for and against whatever promotion selection process is in place. Combine that with a lack of wider support and it can sometimes be difficult to even explore options. Few individuals want to voice their lack of confidence, worries, fears or concerns, so the option to discuss your career hopes and aspirations in confidence with someone who understands and can help, is a significant reason that I believe officers make contact. Once people discover it’s simply a conversation with a purpose, they are at ease and far more relaxed.

My role as coach/mentor is to build awareness, responsibility and self belief – a powerful combination – I’ll do that by asking questions and offering suggestions to identify gaps, to focus and direct effort and to maximise the potential of each individual”.

However, cops can still be quite sceptical initially and I notice that before getting in touch, some will still download a digital guide first to ‘get to know me’. That’s exactly what they are for by the way – and also to supercharge promotion preparations!

I am very proud that new customers are increasingly reaching me via direct word of mouth referrals from previous customers – newly promoted Sergeants and Inspectors!

WHY SHOULD OFFICERS SEEKING PROMOTION CHOOSE RANK SUCCESS?

Cops work long shifts. Many also commute long distances before and after work. They have commitments and a life outside of the job and are often ‘time poor’. The most important choice is always to take action. To help officers do that, they can download a range of digital guides to their computer, tablet or other device to help maintain focus and make best use of their available time. Reading relevant material raises questions and also awareness.

Further options include promotion masterclasses, confidential one to one support and more.

WHAT ADVICE OR TIPS WOULD YOU OFFER THOSE THINKING AHEAD OF RETIREMENT, BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES?

I note your magazine has great advice for anyone stepping from public service to the private sector. My own tips would include a focus on the importance of planning ahead. Think at least 2 years. And think throughout those two years! Draft a business plan – it addresses critical questions. Review your skills, most cops acquire transferrable skills but retire without a professional CV. Find people and organisations who can help, there are lots. Research. Google or Youtube anything you don’t know. Get free advice and guidance from accountants/lawyers on your company structure. I found free funding for business start ups and also media support.

Starting a business has been for me a significant challenge. I have stretched and developed my knowledge, skills and abilities in the last three years and enjoyed every day. I’ve applied all of the tips above to learn about IT, social media and understanding the importance of working on my business as well as in it! I would say that I have succeeded only in creating a foundation upon which to learn more and I am enjoying the journey.

SCJ Excellentia East AMB