Michael Jastroch is a founder of ColdTowne and has lead ColdTowne’s corporate training since 2006. We chatted him up about how he got started, his approach and why he thinks improv is a good tool for facilitating team work.
How did you get started helping teams?
From the age of eighteen on, I stumbled my way into and through a variety of management positions, first as operations director of the country’s largest sailing programs and later as the managing editor of several print magazines in New Orleans. More recently, I was the Executive Director of ColdTowne Theater, where I helped wrangle a few hundred performers and teachers.
(Sailing, print media, and improv. Say what you will about me, but I definitely have a nose for growth industries.)
In 2003, I started taking improv classes to become a comedian and accidently reaped a ton of professional benefits. The core principles of improv – positivity, trust and empathetic listening – work in tandem to help create an egalitarian work environment, where teams are empowered to take bold risks and work together to find creative solutions to problems.
Cultivating those principles in myself over time transformed my management style. I found that by listening and saying “yes” more often than I say no, my teams became adaptable and motivated. More importantly, my outlook changed from work being a slog to something I could look forward to.
How do you approach a custom training or team building?
We design our programs around the specific challenges facing the company – e.g. if a sales team is having trouble with discovery, we use improv tools to help them stay present with the prospect or client. But, my “real” job is to create an environment where the team can cultivate better communication on their own. To learn how to be a better teammate, and in the end, learn how to be a better person.
I take a great deal of pride in the facilitation the ColdTowne team does for companies. From small boutique design firms, to large organizations with thousands of employees, I’ve seen first hand the transformation that occurs when people stop fighting and start genuinely listening to each other.
Any favorite memories to share?
One of my favorite memories is when the entire Whole Foods regions adopted a “Yes, And” rule for their meetings, making a commitment to stay positive and build on each other’s ideas instead of doing our usual default “that could never work.” It was transformative to them.
Improv provides the necessary practice to unlock our best selves.
Also, it’s a lot of fun and there are no PowerPoint presentations.
Interested in talking to Michael about your upcoming team event or company gathering? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.