T.J. Sullivan

Leadership Development

Member Engagement

Confronting Bad Behavior

Motivating the Middle: Fighting Apathy in College Student Organizations

Your student organization has thirds.  Top-third leaders wrap their personal identity in your group, exert the most influence on its actions, and make your group their top priority.  Middle-third members care about your organization and the relationships they have there, but it’s one of several competing priorities.  Bottom-third members are disengaged, potentially causing drama, or checked out.  Unfortunately, most top-third leaders spend the majority of their time fighting the bottom-third – trying to make them attend events, care more deeply, and contribute more.


In 2012, T.J. published Motivating the Middle: Fighting Apathy in College Student Organizations which has quickly become one of the top-selling books on student leadership in the nation.  In his book and his campus keynote, T.J. urges student leaders to start motivating and leading their members based on those members’ chosen level of engagement.  You can’t make a bottom-third member care as much as a top-third leader!  But, you can motivate and lead everyone if you adopt appropriate strategies specific to your members’ level of engagement.  And, T.J. says, student leaders need to focus less energy on the disengaged bottom-third and start spending more time “Motivating the Middle.”


Leadership classes, fraternities and sororities, student governments, residence life and housing staff and more are using this quick, practical leadership model inspiration to reshape their approach to motivating and engaging their shareholders.  T.J.‘s keynote has been extremely popular for campus leadership conferences.  It’s an easily digested leadership model with immense practical application value.  Your student leaders and staff will emerge with a whole new perspective on how to get things done in their organizations and on your campus.


Learning Outcomes: Audience members will understand different levels of “engagement” in their members or constituents. Identify motivating factors for those at different levels of engagement. Discuss how certain events, practices or habits negatively impact motivation and engagement. Change expectation of student leaders that they can force members to a certain level of engagement. Change student leader strategy toward one of engaging members “where they are.”  Reduce student leader burnout through the establishment of more realistic expectations of member involvement.


Ideal Audiences: Leadership Development, Fraternity and Sorority Life, Student Government, Residence Life


Format: Keynote

Confronting the Idiot in Your Chapter

Every fraternity and sorority chapter has at least one member whose behavior causes tensions and problems for everyone. The out of control roommate. The brother who gets in fights. The sister who won’t pay her dues. Bad grades. Hazing. Abusive drinking. Promiscuity. Drugs. Embezzlement. Bad eating habits. Violent relationships. Damage to chapter property. 


Wouldn’t our chapters be much happier and healthier if we could confront the members whose bad behavior is bringing everyone else down? Don’t we have the responsibility to confront the “idiots” in our chapters? We often allow our friends to risk their own health, safety, relationships or grades with idiot behavior. We are afraid to confront because we fear losing a friend, losing respect, or being judged.


In this hysterical, upbeat keynote, T.J. challenges all fraternities and sororities to step to the plate and find the courage to confront negative actions and attitudes from their fellow members. He offers practical strategies for increasing the effectiveness of constructive confrontations.


By encouraging members to confront each other, T.J. gives students a powerful opportunity to put the values of their fraternity or sorority into action. Regardless of the issues facing your Greek community, this keynote will challenge everyone to take responsibility for building a better, more responsible community.


This program can be adapted into a workshop for a smaller group.  It can also be made “non-Greek” in certain circumstances for general leadership audiences. And yes, if you don’t like the word “idiot” you can replace it with a softer term like “difficult person” or “troublemaker.”


Learning Outcomes:  Audience members will acknowledge common circumstances college students feel deserve confrontation.  Discuss the most common reasons students are afraid to confront their peers.  Identify at least six specific confrontation strategies to increase chances of positive progress with those we confront. Clarify that confrontation doesn’t always yield positive results, but that confrontation, done correctly, is a caring act with intrinsic value.


Ideal Audiences: Fraternity and Sorority Life, Leadership Development


Formats: Keynote or Workshop

You Are Better Than MANDATORY!

Does it feel like every single thing we do in our fraternity and sorority community is MANDATORY? It's the worst, laziest leadership lesson fraternity and sorority leaders have passed from generation to generation.  Perhaps we're afraid we won't get all of our requirements completed. Maybe no one will show up for meetings, service events, or even ritual if we don't declare so many events mandatory and levy fines. Maybe we feel empowered as leaders to decide what our members should prioritize.

When did fraternity and sorority become something we have to mandate?


Shouldn't doing things with your brothers and sisters be the best part of your week?

If your community or chapter is struggling with poor morale, it's time to ask the question. Should we be changing some of our leadership habits so that fraternity and sorority life is more relevant and compelling? When did joining our organizations start feeling like joining the Marines? 

T.J. Sullivan has been a champion of effective leadership strategies for decades and wants to help you better engage your members through purposeful planning and execution.  This program, perfect for Greek leadership training, new officer workshops, and retreats, will help you move toward a more "elective" fraternity and sorority experience.


Learning Outcomes:  Audience members will explore the common misconception of mandatory as a means of leadership; consider ways to cut back and/or eliminate mandatory programs in your council or chapter; identify strategies to replace mandatory programming; clarify ways to better engage councils, advisors, and national organizations to avoid the trap of mandatory programming. 


Ideal Audiences: Fraternity and Sorority Life, Leadership Development

Formats: Keynote or Workshop

The Apathy Myth: Real Answers for Unmotivated Members

While T.J.‘s “Motivating the Middle” keynote is about a direct leadership engagement strategy, “The Apathy Myth” is more of a general program about how student organizations need to better engage and excite their members. This keynote challenges your students to make some big changes to make their organizations more relevant to all members.  T.J. gives real actionable steps to move things in the right direction. How can they get your fellow students engaged? How can you get your officers motivated and feeling appreciated? How can you get people to give a damn?  How can we get people to events?  Unfortunately, too many student leaders get frustrated by the apathy they perceive in their fellow members. They then respond to the supposed apathy challenge with fines, mandatory attendance requirements and negativity. Ultimately, these student leaders hit a wall, alienate their members and suffer from frustration and burnout.


There is a better way.


Members disengage and cause drama because they don’t feel connected to their organizations. Would you open your mind to the possibility that there are ways to motivate your group’s members that don’t require making every event mandatory?  T.J. offers student leaders a keynote that focuses on practical ideas—evaluating their events, changing their approach to meetings and redirecting their management of their people—attacking apathy head on. It’s about shaking things up, with an eye to re-igniting a sense of “connection” within organizations. Student leaders have the power to eliminate apathy if they take specific steps to make their organizations more responsive to the realities of their members.  Sometimes, that means small changes, and other times it means a whole new approach to their student organization. Why do you meet when you do?  Are you expecting every member to be engaged at the same level?  What about making events more meaningful.


T.J. has been working with student organizations for more than two decades, and he uses his trademark humor and problem-solving style to energize student leaders who feel overwhelmed. This keynote is perfect for student activities leadership events, presidents’ retreats, fraternity/sorority life, or any other programming opportunity where students are searching for practical answers.  They will walk away with ideas they can implement immediately.


Learning Outcomes:  Audience members will determine ways to Increase member involvement in student organizations through best practices regarding events, meetings, and management of members.  Explore what type of opportunities most appeal to their peers, then compare with their organization’s current activities.  Empower non-officer members to demand activities and events that better appeal to their interests and goals.  Empower students to break out of old habits and try new strategies to increase member involvement.


Ideal Audiences: Leadership Development, Fraternity and Sorority Life, Student Government

Format: Keynote

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