How Do You Define Successful Promotion?

Often, a successful promotion is defined by scoring high on a test, doing well in an assessment center, or even merely getting the position.  However, the “work” does not stop the day we achieve the rank, and successful promotion is not solely defined by obtaining new collar brass. Successful promotion is also characterized by our ongoing efforts, after assuming the new role or rank.


Five essential areas to focus after assuming a new leadership role are: continue to be a student of your position and its responsibility, develop your leadership abilities while building trust, build and maintain your credibility, identify and develop key relationships, and lastly, recognize this promotion is not about you. 

In my series of posts on this topic, I will discuss these five concepts and share tips on how to be successful in these areas.

 #1. Be a student of your new position:


Achieving promotion often requires much studying, attendance in many classes, and several forms of self-evaluation — all of which involves a significant investment in time, and usually money.  However, are you making the same effort and investment concerning the position once you succeed in achieving that rank?


Studying and self-evaluation is a big part of how we prepare for any promotional test.  This can include classes, leadership symposiums, studying community demographics, target hazards, evaluating available resources, and reviewing the latest in tactics and strategies.  However, after achieving promotion, it can be easy to lose sight of our performance at these levels and not maintain currency on changes.  Succession planning is becoming a trend in the Fire Service and has positively impacted candidate preparedness for promotion; however, this process doesn’t always encourage incumbents to find ways to perform better at their level in the organization.


We all have room for improvement at our current level, and we should be committed to becoming a better version of ourselves.  We all have the opportunity to be a better leader, a better fire-ground commander, and a better individual; for our crew, community, and family.  Each opportunity we get to be a better version of ourselves; Firefighter safety is increased; community risk is decreased and the chances of us returning to our families after shift goes up.


Study your position, its role in the department and community, and its responsibilities.  Commit to learning something new each day that will positively impact your organization.  Evaluate yourself each shift and ask others to evaluate you often.  This does not have to be a formal process or a (management 360) approach; instead, obtain informal input from peers and subordinates.  Ask your supervisor, “what could I do better?” Ask our crew, “what are your expectations of me?”


Build relationships with peers outside the organization and speak with them often.  Ask them for an honest evaluation of you and your position.  Share your challenges and obtain their input.  In turn, they will do the same.  These conversations will not only help you realize your problems are not unique; but, also provide an objective perspective that may help you make more informed decisions.  This approach is considered mentoring and or coaching; however, this process reflects an effort to be a student regardless of your position.


Post 1 of 5

Next up: Developing your leadership skills while building trust.

Jeff Armstrong currently serves as the fire Chief for the Rio Vista Fire Department in Northern California.  He  leads a City Fire Department and under contract, serves as the Fire Chief of a neighboring Fire District.  His background includes working in a number of Organizations, and leading both full-time paid Departments and combination Departments.  With a wide variety of experience in the promotional process on both sides of the table and having mentored many candidates, he is able to speak from personal experience on the subject of promotions. 


Chief Armstrong is designated as a CFO (Chief Fire Officer) from the Center for Public Safety Excellence, holds a B.S. in Public Safety Administration, an A.S. in Fire Science and is a certified Chief Officer through California State Fire Training.  He has been a registered California State Fire Instructor since 2007. 


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Comment by Timothy Ferguson on June 13, 2019 at 8:31am

With each promotion, new responsibilities come as a leader. We will not be judged by our new position, but assessed by our progress, commitments, work performances, team building capacity, and leadership qualities. These five concepts in the post correctly tell us that leading and promotions are a continuous learning process and striving to be better than what we are.

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