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Dear Me #1 — Tessier’s Tenets

Tessier’s Tenets

by Claudia Tessier

September 13, 2020

Dear Me,

I want to share with you what I call “Tessier’s Tenets” to help you in your career development. My mother first introduced many of these to me, and other mentors (mostly women) reinforced and added to them as I gained authority and responsibility in my career. It was during my tenure as CEO of a professional association and as chair of national and international standards-setting committees and task forces that I documented what I had been taught and learned and practiced.

Some of my most precious memories are from instilling these same tenets in young women whom I hired in entry positions and who progressed to roles of increasing responsibility over the years that we worked together and beyond. When I visited one of these women a couple of years ago (about thirty years after I hired her and twenty years since we had worked together), she confided in me that, though she had had many bosses since working with me, I will always be her “office mom.”

I hope the following advice will serve you as well as it did me.


  • Build horizontal, not vertical, relationships. Don’t think hierarchically. Select people to work with you, not for you.
  • Ask, don’t tell. Seek help, don’t demand. Don’t assume, ask. Say “please” and “thank you.”
  • Be more interested in doing things the right way, than in doing things your way or in the way they’ve always been done.
  • Use your authority judiciously, not rampantly. Take charge only when you must. If you do it right, this will be infrequently.
  • Don’t isolate yourself. Have an open-door policy. Be available when team members need you. Meet with them regularly, not just when there is a problem.
  • Don’t make permanent decisions for temporary problems. Equally important, don’t make temporary decisions that will create permanent problems!
  • In tough financial times, payroll comes first. You need your employees, and they need their paychecks.
  • Be consistent. But don’t be afraid to change, improve, adapt.
  • Choose your battles well.
  • Remember: You don’t know all the answers and sometimes you don’t even know the questions.
  • When your work is no longer challenging, it’s time to move on.

Finally, I will share with you the advice that my mother gave my siblings and me as we prepared to give school presentations. May it serve you as well as it did us throughout our careers.

Remember three things any time you are speaking before an audience:

  1. Stand up so they can see you.
  2. Speak up so they can hear you.
  3. Know when to shut up so they will appreciate you.

Wishing you much success, both in leading and in speaking.

Your older self,


Please share!


  1. Kay Murphy says:

    I’ve known Claudia for seventy years. She has always been known for her intelligence and positive outlook in every situation. Claudia appreciates being in the moment, but is always looking ahead to new adventures. I love her dearly and look forward to hearing about what life has in store for her in the coming years.

    • Claudia says:

      Hi Kay: 70 years that we can remember! Wish we could remember way back to our first meeting in baby carriages, as our mothers loved to remind us. Love you!

  2. Pat Forbis says:

    Claudia was and continues to be an amazing woman. I was privileged to work with her and to be a friend during the best years of my life.

    Her letter to her younger self is a reflection of how she conducted her earlier life. She was a respected leader in our industry and profession. She will always reside in my heart, with respect and love.

    • Claudia says:

      Hi Pat: Those were wonderful years that we shared and now cherish. So many memories of hard work, great accomplishments, fun times, and many friendships. Love you.

  3. ANN M DONNELLY says:

    I was privileged to get to know you through our professional association. Your Tessier Tenets are a reflection of your beliefs and how you put these into action, supporting us in our personal growth through the years. Love hearing about your continued adventures in your life now and those to come.

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