Today's Post features our Guest Author, MaryAnne Denniston, founder and Principal of the Denniston Group - a retained human resources consulting firm specializing in executive search, interim staffing, talent acquisition and career management.


Never underestimate the power of passion in the workplace. It’s passion and a sense of purpose that drives peak performance and sparks innovation. In an ideal world everyone’s day job speaks loudly to his/her passions. The reality is most of us will need to seek out our passion points and likely work a bit to give them life in the workplace. We need to take the time to look and listen for what we love to do, for what gets us excited, for what brings us joy and then find ways to actively incorporate those things into our work lives. Sometimes it takes a bit of creative thinking, sometimes it means taking on a “side hustle” or passion project that takes you beyond your day job in order to reap the benefits. Some of corporate America’s best programs have come from someone expanding upon a personal passion. Think of the HR person with a passion for health and wellness who creates a corporate wide wellness program that mirrors that and, as a result, positively impacts many.  I can’t say for sure, but I’m willing to bet the Corporate Challenges, a sure sign in NYC that summer is coming, has its roots in some someone’s personal passion for running. It was very likely a desire to share that passion with others that created the opening for New York Roadrunners to get what was then Manufacturers Hanover Bank on board with the idea back in 1977. Today it not only provides a vehicle for healthy and spirited competition, it has also raised millions of dollars for charitable causes and it promotes corporate comradery in a most fun way. What started small in 1977, today, includes more than 255,000 participants from more than 7600 companies competing in races that are held around the world.  As Human Resources executives, we are often better positioned than most to influence ways our, and others’, personal passions can be shared and turned into tangible platforms with broad reach.


In my own case, it has been the Taproot Foundation that has afforded me with my many of my passion projects. Taproot provides non-profits with consulting grants specifically designed to address challenges common to non-profits, challenges that very often don’t have funding sources. Not surprisingly, my contributions feed off my Human Resources talents. I lead teams of very talented pro-bono consultants as we address needs relating to board recruitment strategy, human resources capacity, and performance management. As a sole proprietor in my day job, the opportunity to be part of a team is energizing to me, not to mention how much I learn from others along the way.


When I first started my business, a sole proprietor more often than not working from a home office, I recognized pretty quickly that I needed something to clearly define the end of my workday. I found it in our local adult school where I happily spent a number of years feasting off a smorgasbord of courses covering a wide variety of subjects I never would have been exposed to otherwise. Clearly my passion was not lost on the administration and a number of years in I was asked to join the board. That request marked the beginning of one of the most personally fulfilling experiences I have had to date. It played off both a passion for life-long learning I didn’t even recognize I had until I began taking courses and my passion for my own work in talent acquisition. During my board tenure I had the opportunity to lead the searches for two Executive Directors and see firsthand how each brought new ideas, energy and excitement to the role. It also gave me the unique opportunity to view the results of my work through two sets of lens, that of the end user and that of the service provider. I now have a very different perspective of my work as a whole and it colors how I approach my clients.


Passion, wherever or however you find it, can’t help but spill over into the more mundane aspects of your work-a-day life.  It will make you more energized, more creative in how you arrive at solutions, and more joyful in how you deliver your day-to-day work product.


MaryAnne Denniston Biography:

MaryAnne Denniston has a diverse background that includes consulting, financial services, technology, healthcare, higher education and not-for profit experience. The Denniston Group, established in 1989, provides Human Resource consulting services, often with an emphasis on strategic staffing, to both public and private companies. Representative clients include Brill Neumann, CCC Network Systems, Ernst & Young, Ferguson Partners, GE Capital, Healthfirst, The International Rescue Committee, Korn Ferry International, Lee Hecht Harrison, MedE America, Mercator Software, NLMK US, Quinnipiac University, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Towers Perrin.


Prior to establishing The Denniston Group, MaryAnne was a Vice President at Handy Associates, a Human Resources consulting firm specializing in executive selection and compensation.  

MaryAnne is a pro bono Account Director for The Taproot Foundation. As such, she leads teams of pro bono consultants providing human resources service grants, specifically Board Recruitment Strategy, Human Resource Capacity, and Performance Management, to high potential nonprofits.  She is on the board of Directors of Gramatan Village, a community based organization that supports senior citizens, facilitating their ability to gracefully age in place. She serves as an advisor to the founder and board of Central Queens Academy, a New York City charter school. Additionally, she served on the Board of the Bronxville Adult School for six years, the last two years as Vice Chair.


MaryAnne, who began her career with The New York Health and Hospitals Corporation, holds a Masters Degree from Fordham University.


Connect with MaryAnne on LinkedIn

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