Innovative Meetings

Kellogg’s Battle of the Bands

A 250 person-strong sales team learned the ins and out of songwriting to build camaraderie.

When 250 sales-team members arrived at the Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa on Feb. 5 for the Kellogg Company’s Specialty Channels Annual Sales Meeting, they saw a four-hour team-building activity scheduled for the second day of the three-day meeting on their agendas. But that was it — no description, no hint of what they would be doing. The team-building event had been “kept a very tight-lipped secret,” said Wilson Ray, director of sales operations for Kellogg Specialty Channels. “And people were very concerned.”

They needn’t have worried. Working with Song Division, Ray and his team had planned an event that proved to be a hit: a songwriting competition. “We’ve done team builders in the past, like Beach Olympics,” Ray said. This year, “we wanted to really add something memorable for the group that would challenge everyone’s creative side and allow everybody to participate.”

The songwriting activity also was chosen to reinforce key messages. “We usually have a half-day, full-day, half-day [program] over the three days” of the sales meeting, Ray said. “The first half day we typically close out the prior year, and we have a rewards ceremony that night. And the next day is all about looking forward.” This year, that included a presentation by the division’s new leader, who “rolled out her vision for our channel and [outlined] our four strategic pillars,” he said.

That evening, the group arrived at the ballroom at the scheduled hour. “It was really cool just to watch people, because no one knew what was going to happen,” Ray said. “And when they showed up, there’s a band onstage, and the band just starts rocking out right away. It’ s high-energy, and when they introduced [the activity], people were like, ‘Okay, this is going to be fun.’”

Song Division captured the theme of the meeting, Ray said, “given that we just rolled out a new vision in our strategic pillars. Song Division broke us into teams, and they have a very defined process that helped us write songs [about the vision].” Ray wasn’t sure whether it was possible for all 60 people on the four teams to participate, but Song Division team members worked with people at each table to write different parts of their group’s song. “Everybody really took part in the song-writing process,” he said.

After writing and rehearsing their songs, the teams were brought back into the ballroom for the “Battle of the Bands.” Four unbiased staff members, including two from Kellogg’s meeting services team, judged the competition, “American Idol”-style. Those sales-team members with special talents — a drummer, bass player, and guitarist were among the group — got to join the Song Division band for their team’s performance. Everyone sang.

“I’ve been around here 20 years,” Ray said, “and I was surprised. There really wasn’t one person who didn’t engage in the event.”

Rather than being scheduled as the final event capping off the Kellogg Company’s sales meeting, the songwriting event was incorporated as a way to help energize and focus the Specialty Channels sales team on the work ahead. The morning after the competition, the sales force gathered together and broke into groups to “finalize their execution plans for the rest of first quarter,” Kellogg’s Wilson Ray said. The energy from the night before carried over into this activity – and continues today. “I would tell you it’s still spilling over right now,” Ray said. A video of the winning team’s performance has been uploaded to the company intranet, he said, “for all of Kellogg to see.”

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.