We're told by the leaders we coach that raising their self-awareness is the single most important benefit coaching brings them.  We use a simple exercise called Credo Memo in both our coaching and leadership programmes, that asks the fundamental question: "How well do you REALLY know yourself?"

Your motivations, your values and your beliefs? And, where these came from. Here’s the thing, if you don't have self-awareness, how on earth can you expect anyone else to be at their best when working with you?


The Credo Memo exercise is designed to help you explore your guiding principles, raising your self-awareness of what is truly important for your leadership practice.

Imagine that your organisation has afforded you the chance to take a six-month sabbatical, all expenses paid. The only condition is that you may not take any work along on this sabbatical and you will not be permitted to communicate to anyone at your office while you’re away.  Not by email, phone, letter or any other means. Just you, a few good books, some music and your family or a friend.

Before you depart, the people you work with need to know the principles you believe should guide their actions in your absence.  They need to know the guiding principles, the values and beliefs that you think should steer their decision-making and action taking.

After all, you want to be able to fit right back in when you return!

You are not permitted any long reports. Just a simple one-page Credo Memo.

Call to Action

Now, grab a piece of A4 paper and write that memo.

Okay, now you’ve written your Credo Memo,  take each principle, value or belief and ask yourself these questions:

  • why is this important? - closely followed by "why does this matter?" as asking these simple questions will often surface a deeper, core principle
  • where did these principles come from? - the experiences you've had that formed these
  • whose principles are they really? - you will have picked them up a long the way
  • which of these bring you into conflict, with yourself, others or situations you face?
  • which are you willing to compromise on?
  • which are redundant, no longer in service of you? - often, our beliefs can out live their value and start to act against us!
  • which new principles would you consider adopting?

Of course, this exercise is not a substitute for more in-depth self-discovery of values and beliefs, but it does provide a useful starting point for articulating your guiding principles.


The more you know yourself, the more patience you have for what you see in others.

- Erik Erikson