Shaping behavior

Jeff vonKaenel

Last Friday night, 120 News & Review staffers,
freelancers, distribution drivers and our loved ones gathered in our
new but still empty Del Paso Boulevard “green building.” We
were enjoying a combination holiday party and introduction to the
building, and there’s no doubt the building was a hit. The
environmentally friendly aspects of our new digs include blue-jean
insulation, skylights, cement floors, ceiling fans, dual-flush toilets,
a waterless urinal, open spaces, solar tubes, LED parking-lot lights
and even lighting controls that briefly shut down the lights during the

All of these improvements were on view for our staff and guests, but
to my mind, one of the most innovative green aspects of the building
went unnoticed: the 13 different offices in our 19,000-square-foot
structure are all the same size. My space as CEO of the company is 120
square feet, the same size as the office next door belonging to my very
capable executive assistant, Cathy Long. In fact, a few months ago, the
move planners decided that Cathy and I should switch offices. No
problem, because they were both the same size.

Similar office sizes reflect the understanding that every job and
every person is important at SN&R. Good ideas can come and do come
from everyone and anyone, and while it is important to have personal
ambition, the focus should be on the group goal. And just as playing a
small but important role on a winning team is more satisfying than
playing a large part on a losing team, I believe a cooperative,
supportive work environment trumps a high-paying but lousy job. There
is not enough money in the world to pay me to work every day with
people who think I’m a jerk, or at a place where my job causes
others to suffer. Money just isn’t worth it.

In working to create a more sustainable world, we need to focus on
many things, such as solar power, reducing oil consumption and eating
more local food. One of the most important things we can do is to focus
more on who we are and what we do than the things we own. Despite
advances in energy conservation and creation, there’s just no way
all 6 billion people on the planet can each live in their own
3,000-square-foot home, let alone move up to a larger,
4,000-square-foot house. We simply don’t have the resources.

Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings;
thereafter they shape us.” We may be just now moving in to our
new, green building on Del Paso Boulevard, but for us, it’s
already shaping the good things that are to come from SN&R.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.