Toni McLelland MSc FRSA, Critical Friend & Business Mentor for Social Causes

Toni Mclelland MSc FRSA is a Critical Friend and Business Mentor working strategically with leaders in social and public interest causes. Compassion and DEIB have been integral in Toni’s journey navigating leaders through business challenges and change for futureproofing in business whilst also bringing the learning back 360◦ to mentor start-up social entrepreneurs. Toni is a proficient speaker, Founder of The Compassionate Organisation and Leadership Framework, a veteran in DEIB, and developed’ The Magic BLEND’ leadership change model. Known as the Queen of Compassion, she comes with a sprinkling of #TonisFairyDust and has been described as fairy dust personified.


When we think of compassion, we think of ‘taking positive action to relieve the suffering of others.’ 

As I reflect on my working history of over 30 years, there is one common theme that runs through it all and that is compassion. When working in criminal justice it brought trust and kept me safe, specialist education or social care leading large teams they were happier bringing efficiency and effectiveness. Even when leading critical incidents in the communities, it brought calm and resolve, there are many more examples however regardless of the role when compassion was applied it always brought success, the ‘win-win’. The success was expedited and enhanced further when used to apply DEIB. There is every reason that if compassion is applied to business, it can do the same…….

As we start to explore the key components of futureproofing businesses, the two areas that immediately come to mind are people and sustainability. What underpins these two areas are *DEIB and Compassion. I call them the power couple as they both work together hand in hand and when applied well bring excellent results in business.

When we apply compassion in our work, especially in the application of DEIB we bring out the best in everyone, when we bring compassion to business, we are considerate not only of people but also of the planet as practices become embedded within organisational cultures.

There is research and evidence that compassion in business is required for success, that many leaders want more of it but don’t know how to incorporate it, what it is, how it works, or how to apply it.

You may have heard of compassionate leadership however for this to be most effective and embedded this practice should be delivered under the framework of a compassionate organisation. Leaders need to be supported by C Suite and Board members as well as organisational strategies and guidance.

So, what is A Compassionate Business?

A compassionate business is:-

“A business or organisation that is considerate to people and planet, it is one that not only  takes positive action for sustainable development but has people at the core of its foundation and keeps people at the heart.” Toni McLelland 

Within a compassionate business, you will find leaders’ workforce and ALL stakeholders feeling valued and working collaboratively to produce and embed sustainable results that benefit all.

It brings all leading strategies and agendas together under one umbrella. Many leaders are overwhelmed with many agendas and priorities, but this framework makes the narrative more streamlined and easier to focus on strategy, delivery, and resources. 

Building the Foundations

The 4Ps – yes, my four pillars which build the foundations for a Compassionate Business are referred to as my 4Ps which are:-

Purpose, People, Planet, and  Profit (or Performance)

Purpose- a business that is clear on its purpose includes, vision, mission, and values. Being clear not only encourages shared values but brings clarity with the difference they are making in the world, why it is needed, and why they are good at it whilst including social impact.

Quote: When we understand our purpose, mission, and values as an organisation whilst standing firm in our beliefs our communications are much clearer, our target groups are attracted to the message, and we develop trust. Toni McLelland

PeopleBusiness is about people, a successful business in profit or performance is one that puts people first, at the heart, and stakeholders include workforce, clients, and community. When I visit organisations, I look for The Workforce Development Strategy (WDS) as it tells me much about an organisation. There are many ways to invest in staff which are all key to happiness and effectiveness whilst people feel valued in the workplace. That is where my Compassionate Cs come into play but perhaps, I can share that another time……

Quote “Count the smiles and the KPIs will take care of themselves.” Toni McLelland

Planet- Is your organisation doing their part for sustainability and the environment?

Is this area clearly outlined in your purpose, mission values and what is your commitment to it? Whether it’s aligning your policies with sustainable development or making the link with planet and hybrid working in relation to fuel and energy costs you will be going in the right direction and position well. 

Quote “We are all interconnected and to become sustainable we have to look beyond at the wider impact and much more than ourselves- every decision we make impacts others or planet directly and indirectly” Toni McLelland

Profit (or Performance)

Whether you are profit-making or not for profit businesses need funding and good financial management to survive. Having good governance plays a big part in the outcome. Leaders that have good business acumen are key to making this happen. Recognising the difference between being good at a skill, being a great people leader, and having business acumen is what it takes with robust governance and accountability. Look to get results all the time- be great at what you do and do it better than competitors. Understand the finances but don’t get distracted with chasing the next pound or dollar as consistent results will always bring business.

Quote: Don’t chase money chase results, then the money chases you Just remember to slow down occasionally for the money to catch you Toni McLelland 

But wait there is more…….

The leading strategies that underpin good business and organisations all involve people and sustainability

  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)- and the interlink with P for Purpose and People
  • Diversity Equity Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB)- inclusive practices and leaving no person behind. Ensuring all groups are considered and working together –this interlinks with P for People and Performance
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with all organisations required to meet this obligation by 2030 focusing earlier on these goals could put you ahead of competitors as a market leader- this interlinks with Ps for People and Planet
  • Environmental Social and Governance  (ESG)- interlinks with Ps for Planet Profit and Performance, we also want robust governance with risks considered along with responsibility and accountability  in organisations 

 In context when you think back to the pandemic many businesses were not prepared, many didn’t survive and ones doing well still struggled. I saw many didn’t have effective contingency or continuity planning in place. With this framework, you can get ready by putting more robust structures in place for a sustained business.

Being prepared puts you ahead of competitors, potentially as a market leader.  You are more able to be agile and pivot whilst manoeuvring in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) environment 

So, if there was another pandemic would your organisation be ready?

By putting people and the planet applied with compassion at the top of your organisation’s agenda will take you to a sustainable future-proofed organisation. 

There is no exemption for responsible social entrepreneur startups as not only will it assist you greatly in understanding and meeting your clients’ agendas and priorities it will also help enormously if applying for funding or investment.

So next time someone mentions ‘Compassionate Business’– think again and think of the benefits it can bring to futureproof your business.

There are no losers with compassion in business, only winners!

Content Disclaimer

Related Articles