Teacher: “Juan is so smart, but I can’t seem to get through to him.”
Sandra: “I go to the house and I know they are home, but they won’t answer the door.”
Will: “I try to help them, but they don’t want to hear what I have to suggest.”
What do these three examples have in common? A lack of engagement. Juan isn’t engaged with the teacher, so she does not feel she can help him. The family does not want to talk to Sandra so they avoid her when they can. Will has not established rapport so the family cannot benefit from his experience. These are unfortunate but unfortunately common scenarios- engagement is the first key to lasting success for almost any difficult activity.
MiiWrap involves a lot of hard work for families. Engagement in the process and with MiiWrap staff leads to more buy-in and greater motivation. Lack of or limited engagement may be the primary contributing factor to lack of success for many families.
Building engagement can be hard, but when families encounter the MiiWrap mindset of respect and acceptance it becomes a lot easier. That’s why engaging families in a collaborative partnership is the first goal and phase of MiiWrap. Why identifying and increasing engagement are teachable MiiWrap skills. And why MiiWrap staff learn to communicate with the intent of building engagement. Using the MiiWrap mindset and skills take the guesswork out of engagement.
Why focus on engagement?
People who are engaged with their service provider and the service process are more likely to achieve successful outcomes and to hold onto and continue to build on that success after services have ended. Since engagement is so important to success, but often so elusive, we should be addressing it from the start.
The more people interact with service systems and fall short of success, the less likely they are to be engaged in the process. This is one reason that families who enter MiiWrap are harder to engage. It is important to realize that engagement is not a static trait, but something that changes from situation to situation and moment to moment. This means past failures of engagement do not determine current success. This also mean that engagement is something that must be continuously nurtured and improved. Every interaction is a chance to build engagement and strengthen the collaborative partnership.
Fostering engagement through genuine interaction
The first MiiWrap tips to increasing engagement revolve around staff interactions with the family and all MiiWrap team members. Communicating from a place of respect and acceptance, cornerstones of the MiiWrap mindset, are the basis of fostering engagement and forming the collaborative partnership. Staff who are consistently successful engaging even more challenging families communicate authenticity, genuine interest, empathy, compassion, and shared control. One of the most important tools in the MiiWrap belt is reflective listening, a way staff show families they are heard and understood. All of these communication techniques are vital to engagement, and MiiWrap staff learn to wield them with precision.
Learning skills to increase engagement
MiiWrap staff have a deliberate way of communicating to build engagement. Through the MiiWrap training process, staff learn skills to engage in reflective listening. These are the MiiWrap relational skills. Reflective listening increases engagement and builds the collaborative partnership. Specific skills to do this include seeking collaboration, asking open-ended questions, affirming strengths and accomplishments, reflecting important points back to the family, and summarizing to ensure understanding. These skills are the basis of every communications with the entire MiiWrap team.
Staff engagement matters, too
MiiWrap is a team-supported process. Each team member, family, professionals, natural supports, and MiiWrap staff, need to be engaged with the team and the process for success. Seasoned professionals often feel a strong need to fix things and this works against the MiiWrap mindset. The principles and skills of MiiWrap may appear to be straight forward at a brief glance but it takes practice and feedback for most people to master them. For team members it can be scary to do something that is contrary to your instincts and what you have been taught. The focus on engagement and the impact that engagement has on outcomes can help team members experience how the new approach works and begin to find more effective ways for their own practice.
It is important to spend time getting staff excited about the possibilities of MiiWrap. We know that MiiWrap can make a critical difference for families. Your staff need to know that, too. And it’s not enough to know it, they have to feel it, to believe it. There are several ways to do that. Two of our favorites are to start training with:
- A real-life story from a family for whom MiiWrap made the difference, preferably delivered by the family.
- A polarity exercise, where the class evaluates the outcomes for a family given services as usual, and then given MiiWrap style planning
These things take time, but they set the stage for new staff to be excited about doing MiiWrap. This excitement is critical: when the staff member is alone in the field, and things get hard, you need them to really believe this is the best way. Otherwise, human nature says they will revert to what they know.
During MiiWrap or other services, families are asked or told to make hard changes. Getting engagement in the process is critical to sustained outcomes. MiiWrap addresses challenges of engagement from the beginning, and builds in skills to sustain engagement over the course of the process.