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Motivating the Middle: Fighting Apathy in College Student Organizations

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If you lead a student organization and you're frustrated that you and a few others do all the work, you need to motivate a specific set of overlooked members. It's the concept that will set student leaders free. Stop focusing on those who check out or cause problems, and start focusing on those "middle third members" who hate drama, care for your organization, and prefer to If you lead a student organization and you're frustrated that you and a few others do all the work, you need to motivate a specific set of overlooked members. It's the concept that will set student leaders free. Stop focusing on those who check out or cause problems, and start focusing on those "middle third members" who hate drama, care for your organization, and prefer to play a supporting role. Directing your efforts toward the middle -- and understanding what they can contribute -- may solve your most pressing leadership challenges. "Motivating the Middle" offers a simple, empowering strategy for student government officers, team captains, chapter presidents, club leaders, residence life staff, and other college students looking to make a difference on today's campuses. About the Author T.J. Sullivan is the cofounder and CEO of CAMPUSPEAK. Since 1992, T.J. Sullivan has spoken professionally to millions of college students, empowering them to take nontraditional approaches to advancing their organizations. Visit his blog at www.tjsullivan.com.


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If you lead a student organization and you're frustrated that you and a few others do all the work, you need to motivate a specific set of overlooked members. It's the concept that will set student leaders free. Stop focusing on those who check out or cause problems, and start focusing on those "middle third members" who hate drama, care for your organization, and prefer to If you lead a student organization and you're frustrated that you and a few others do all the work, you need to motivate a specific set of overlooked members. It's the concept that will set student leaders free. Stop focusing on those who check out or cause problems, and start focusing on those "middle third members" who hate drama, care for your organization, and prefer to play a supporting role. Directing your efforts toward the middle -- and understanding what they can contribute -- may solve your most pressing leadership challenges. "Motivating the Middle" offers a simple, empowering strategy for student government officers, team captains, chapter presidents, club leaders, residence life staff, and other college students looking to make a difference on today's campuses. About the Author T.J. Sullivan is the cofounder and CEO of CAMPUSPEAK. Since 1992, T.J. Sullivan has spoken professionally to millions of college students, empowering them to take nontraditional approaches to advancing their organizations. Visit his blog at www.tjsullivan.com.

30 review for Motivating the Middle: Fighting Apathy in College Student Organizations

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maribeth

    This is a nice book when someone is new to working with groups. Although aimed specifically at college students, any leader of a group can get some good, workable tips from this system of working with groups. It's a very quick read, too!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kate Ferguson

    I read this as a sorority chapter president for my Fraternty and Sorority Life Office and it was very helpful. I would recommend this book for any student organization leader looking to grow their skills. It is a very quick and useful read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    dara

    I had to read this for my Nonprofit Leadership class. It was somewhat useful. Given its short length, I am glad I borrowed it. Think of your organization as composed of top, middle, and bottom third members. The bottom is bad. Ignore these people. Set up some basic requirements for group membership that might deter the laziest of this third from remaining in the organization. Then concentrate your effort on the other two-thirds, especially the middle third since top members will need less I had to read this for my Nonprofit Leadership class. It was somewhat useful. Given its short length, I am glad I borrowed it. Think of your organization as composed of top, middle, and bottom third members. The bottom is bad. Ignore these people. Set up some basic requirements for group membership that might deter the laziest of this third from remaining in the organization. Then concentrate your effort on the other two-thirds, especially the middle third since top members will need less motivation to be awesome. "Student organizations should be run for the benefit of those who enjoy them, believe in them, and work for them. As a student leader, you need to nurture your top-third and middle-third members, motivating them and rewarding them in ways that are appropriate. They are not the same, and as a savvy student leader, you need to understand that. It's a much better idea to make the organization work for those who are committed to its success. Focus on those who choose to take part in a positive way, and stop worrying about convincing the bottom third to care as deeply as you do. Allow for some flexibility for middle-third members. Expect only the minimum from bottom-third members who wish to remain involved. Do these things, and you will see investment in your organization increase. You'll see your time and energy spent on more productive endeavors. But, there's still one small problem. Your top-third members might get very annoyed by the disparity in expectations. They will say it's not fair. They might wonder why members who put in very little get to attend the social events or ride on the Homecoming float or get access to the same benefits as they. You will try to elevate their rewards. You will give them lots of appreciation and praise. But, they'll still be annoyed. When this happens, it's time for your top-third members to come to terms with a basic truth that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. The idea that every member of an organization will be equally committed and engaged is a fantasy, and they are wasting their time whining about it." ^Basically, that.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lexie

    I am the President of an all womens organization, my faculty advisor at my University recommended that I read this book to help encourage drive and passion in my members. I wanted girls to be excited about events and be passionate about service and philanthropy, but they just werent. I struggled for so long to find a way to motivate my members. This book helped me so much. Not only did it provide great ideas and back-up strategies for when plan A didnt work out, it reassured my feelings, gave me I am the President of an all women’s organization, my faculty advisor at my University recommended that I read this book to help encourage drive and passion in my members. I wanted girls to be excited about events and be passionate about service and philanthropy, but they just weren’t. I struggled for so long to find a way to motivate my members. This book helped me so much. Not only did it provide great ideas and back-up strategies for when plan A didn’t work out, it reassured my feelings, gave me hope that I was doing the position well, and established in me a deeper love for my organization. This book changed me, my ability to lead, and the impact I have made on my women’s organization and we should do the same for women everywhere.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mandy Havert

    This was an extremely quick read and is a straightforward perspective setter on why organizations have those who commit to the n-th degree and those who are so loosely committed they could be someone who wandered in off the street for the free chips and salsa. Direct and succinct, this book helps (student) organization leaders understand why the top two thirds of an organization matter most, but that the lower third cannot be fully discounted.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tricia Copeland

    Although I'm not in a college organization at this time, I meet T.J. and out of interest picked up his book. Even though it's written for college organizations, it can be applied to any group. I got a lot out of how to keep members of your group happy and organizations thriving. Thanks T.J. Good, easy, quick read!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kaitlyn Martin

    Motivating the Middle was such an insightful read that help me become a better leader as I was serving on my Undergraduate institution's Panhellenic. I will be recommending this, as a student affairs professional, to my future students

  8. 5 out of 5

    David Miles

    Phenomenal read on reshaping your perspectives on your organization, its people, and you When I read this book I expected some insight on how to manage teams but its real value comes from its insights on how to manage expectations. Phenomenal read on reshaping your perspectives on your organization, it’s people, and you When I read this book I expected some insight on how to manage teams but it’s real value comes from its insights on how to manage expectations.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rainer Erani

    Really short read. Highly recommend anyone in a leadership position in a college student organization to read!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chandler

    Motivating the Middle by T.J. Sullivan is one of the most inspiring books that I read so far this year. It was a quick read, and from the beginning I felt like Sullivan knew me personally. Every student leader could benefit from this book and I dont have time is not an excuse because Sullivan gets the message across in the perfect length for any busy student leader like me. Im one of those top third people described by Sullivan when he said They will sit in someones room, late into the night, Motivating the Middle by T.J. Sullivan is one of the most inspiring books that I read so far this year. It was a quick read, and from the beginning I felt like Sullivan knew me personally. Every student leader could benefit from this book and “I don’t have time” is not an excuse because Sullivan gets the message across in the perfect length for any busy student leader like me. I’m one of those top third people described by Sullivan when he said “They will sit in someone’s room, late into the night, discussing the politics of your organization, solving problems, or planning the next event.” My friends make a rule when we go out for dinner that I’m not allowed to talk about Student Government, and it’s hard for me to do. - from 2011 during my time as Student Body President at NC State

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Moore

    TJ Sullivan is one of the most inspiring public speakers I have listened to. This book reinforces that. All of it makes sense. Total and complete sense. Whether you are a top third who is frustrated or a top third leader who wants to be innovative, this way of thinking and leading is a breath of fresh air into any way of thinking. I believe that all student leaders should read this book, and that all types of student organizations would benefit from it's ideas put into action.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    Insightful, actionable resource for the college student leader (and the student affairs professionals supporting them). Amazingly quick read and comes with discussion questions at the end for immediate appication

  13. 4 out of 5

    Norm

    Pretty good read for student leaders looking to make more of an impact on their membership and getting them more involved. It's a different way of looking at things, and something worth looking into. A very quick read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Jackson

    Great book! I'm a high school teacher struggling to motivate my students. Though this book is geared towards those over student organizations, I feel that it offers valuable information that can be applied in multiple circumstances; even in the classroom.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Claudine

    This is a great book. An easy read. For anyone who works with young adults in organizations, this provides great insight into helping them realize what they can do to make their organization better, more purpose-driven.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gary Baker

    Very short and easy read, and some simple and easy-to-apply suggestions for working with student orgs. Good read for student leaders or anyone working with clubs on a campus.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    Easy read...would love for all of my sorority leaders and volunteers to read it! It would make all of our lives easier!!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Keegin

    Great book for student leaders. Helps them to understand different motivations students have.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tricia Smith

    This is a great book for college student leaders. It's a quick read and good lessons about prioritizing your energies to maximize the team!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nate Burke

    Great read for student leaders. I've taught it with college fraternity/ sorority classes with excellent response.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Dipietro

    Great bit just for use among colleges & universities but many of the same principals can apply to any organization.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    http://njr-runningfree.blogspot.com/2...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

  24. 4 out of 5

    V

  25. 5 out of 5

    Moira

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ashleigh

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brett Polen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Allison

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kolby

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