Steve Green is the President of Hobby Lobby, the world's largest, privately owned arts and crafts retailer. He is also chairman of the board for The Museum of the Bible and the visionary behind one of the world's largest private collections of rare biblical text and artifacts, the Green Collection. Mr. Green kindly took time out of his schedule to discuss ways in which he stays mentally healthy. The following interview gives insight into how such an influential businessman is able to stay grounded.
Elise: How do you balance all of your work and family responsibilities?
Green: It is an ongoing challenge to balance doing a good job at work, as well as spending quality time with my family. It helps to prioritize my responsibilities and recognize that family is the priority. Part of taking care of my family is doing my best on the job, working hard and being efficient with my time. If I don’t utilize my time well at work, then I hurt the family. If I do use my time well at work, then that frees me up for time well spent with my family.
Elise: With that being said, what would you say is more challenging leading a company as big as Hobby Lobby or raising your family and being the head of the household?
Green: I think that whichever one you do haphazardly will be the most challenging. If you don’t work hard on the job, then you are going to face problems; the same thing applies at home. If you don’t spend time and energy dealing with issues with either responsibility, then they become the bigger challenge.
Elise: When you are not having the best day or something happens and you are just not in a positive state of mind, how do you stay positive for your employees and those that work around you?
Green: There are times when things are more of a challenge or some days that things aren’t going well and I try to distance myself from other employees so that it doesn’t rub off on them. There are some cases I have seen that you can’t avoid it and it is a matter of trying to do the best that you can and not let the stresses of life impact your attitude or rub off on others. If you have a difficult day, then it is best to avoid critical decisions when possible and achieve other goals so that you don’t make poor decisions in the middle of stressful times.
Elise: On the opposite side, if you are around those that are having a bad day or are bringing a negative energy into the workplace, how do you distance yourself from that?
Green: In most cases, I have responsibilities over the people I am working with. In those cases I have to make the decision if the situation calls for discipline or a word of encouragement. If it has become a habit with an employee then it calls for a discussion letting the employee know of the damage the negative energy is doing. In most cases and in cases where I am not responsible for a person’s actions a soft word or a word of encouragement would be the most appropriate response. It is similar to raising children, sometimes they need discipline, sometimes they need love and it takes wisdom to know the difference. That kind of wisdom is something I am still working to achieve.
Elise: For you, can you give examples of steps that you take to ensure that there are appropriate boundaries in your life both professionally and personally?
Green: I would start with a personal relationship with God. Being in His word daily and listening to His direction is what I strive to do. Secondly, is to build strong relationships at home. Having strong relationships with God and my family are what gives me the support and strength I need in order to deal with stress and challenges. As a third option, I realize that some people don’t have a strong family to stand alongside them in times of stress, so it is important to reach out to professionals that know how to help them deal with struggles or challenges in life.
Elise: What do you do when you are feeling stressed out? Are there activities that you involve yourself in or ways that you can calm yourself down when you are feeling overwhelmed?
Green: I am typically on the introvert spectrum and don’t require a lot of talking. First of all, I spend time talking to God through prayer. Secondly, I discuss issues with my wife, when appropriate. Thirdly, there are times once a month that we have family meetings and lastly, I meet once a month with a small group of guys to encourage, pray for each other, and lift each other up. Once again, it all goes back to family and a strong faith and relationship with God.
Elise: What advice would you give others about being proactive about maintaining their mental health?
Green: Once again, I would say that having a relationship with God and family is what I have seen to offer strength and peace. There are times that people deal with unique struggles, such as loss of a loved one and dealing with grief. That may be a time that a person would benefit in seeking help from a professional counselor that has dealt with those issues and can help walk a person through the emotion and grief. For example, we have Chaplains available to our employees because they may not have family or they may have issues that the family doesn’t know how to deal with. It is also easier for us to know where to direct them if they need additional assistance and it isn’t something the Chaplain team has the expertise to handle. There are wonderful resources available to people and sometimes they just need someone to guide them in finding the assistance they need.
Elise: That is great that ya'll do that. I wish that more employers offered those services especially when employees are feeling overwhelmed at work.
Green: We want to help our employees who are facing struggles in their lives, directing them to those who have learned how to deal with those struggles. Life throws some challenging things our way at times and being able to walk through those times with someone who has been there before can be a tremendous relief.
Elise: Was there a time in your life when things were not going how you planned? How did you overcome?
Green: What comes to mind first is our experience with our lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court. The government was demanding that we provide products that we believe take life. That was not something we could take part in because of our personal convictions. We saw our only option was to take legal action. During that two year period, we did not know what the results would be – whether the case would be a win or lose. A loss would have been catastrophic for our company. This is where you fall back on your faith and relationship with God, and family. During this time there was a certain peace knowing that whatever the outcome, we were doing what we believed was right.
Elise: Being in the spotlight, how have you managed to maintain your integrity and stay true to your beliefs despite what others may say or think?
Green: We strive to do our best and like everyone else, we make mistakes in the process. Since we make mistakes it can be useful to listen to the critics, they may have a point. Some of the critics are simply wrong and you have to be able to distinguish between the two. You also have to know when you are in the right frame of mind to digest the negative comments. There are times when you are not in a good position to listen to a lot of criticism. Avoiding the negative as much as possible during those times can be helpful. When I am in a good state of mind, it can be helpful so I can learn from comments that are being said. I have to determine if the criticism is wrong and have an answer for it, or to learn and improve from the criticism. A healthy balance is the key.
Elise: What would you say for someone who may be reading this, someone who looks up to you, what would you say to that person struggling today and not really sure what to do next?
Green: I would start with the Bible. It is not a quick fix but it is a guide for life and being in it every day can be a tremendous help. Secondly, I would suggest finding and building healthy relationships. I would define a healthy relationship as one that is loving and encourages a person to be better, to do good, one that can be encouraging and at the same time willing to lovingly correct if needed. You also have to avoid those relationships that tear down and are destructive. The third direction would be to seek out help from those who are trained in the struggle you face when needed, always remembering that not all advisors will give good advice. Just like a medical doctor, sometimes you need a second opinion.
Elise: Who do you look up to? Who is your role model?
Green: Jesus is the ultimate example to follow and is who I strive to pattern my life after. My parents would be next on the list. My mom and dad have been great parents and have been wonderful role models for me. They have been successful in both their personal lives and professional lives.
Elise: Do you have a go to song? A song that lifts your spirits no matter what is going on?
Green: I don’t listen to a lot of music but an album that I have been blessed by is Steven Curtis Chapman’s album “Beauty Will Rise”. It is one that he produced after a tragic family accident and the pain of that experience is dealt with through the songs. There is encouragement in seeing a person in the midst of such personal grief being able to sing beauty will rise.
Elise: What accomplishment do you feel have been most significant in your career?
Green: When you say career, I think of work, but I would start personally and that would be my family. My first responsibility is to them. My wife and I will celebrate 31 years of marriage this year. I am very proud of all my 6 children, 1 daughter-in-law, 1 son-in-law and 4 grandkids. When it come to my job I believe it will be what I am in the middle of now, which is building Museum of the Bible. The museum will highlight the book that our family tries to follow in our business lives and our personal lives and we want to encourage all people to consider what it says for their lives.
Elise: Tell me a little bit more about the Bible Museum and is there any way either now or someway in the future that people will be able to volunteer or help out?
Green: The Museum has four initiatives, the museum itself, traveling exhibits, research, and education. The museum is scheduled to open late 2017 in Washington, DC and will be 430,000 sq. ft. We started the traveling exhibits before we had the location for the museum and did not know when it would open. The traveling exhibit here in the U.S. called “Passages” is currently in Santa Clarita, CA. We have also had exhibits in Rome, Israel, Cuba, and Argentina. The research initiative includes the study of artifacts in the Green collection, it includes an archaeological site in Israel that we will begin to dig in 2017, and is focused on giving the museum scholarly credibility all its initiatives. The education initiative is focused on the development of a school curriculum that can be used to educate students on the Bible’s history, its narrative and its impact. More can be learned about the museum from our website, museumofthebible.org.
Elise: Well that is all I have but are there any final thoughts that you would like for people to know about you, your company, or any last tips to give others?
Green: Our family has and continues to strive to follow Biblical principles in our personal lives and at work. We believe the story the Bible tells, of a good creator God that made all things and it was good. He gave us choice because love requires a choice and man turned from God and the relationship was broken. It is this broken relationship that has resulted in the brokenness we experience in life. God then made a way for the broken relationship to be restored by sending His son to die on a cross, paying for man’s rejection of Him. We start by embracing the restored relationship He offers and then strive to follow the guidelines He gives us. That is why we as a family have a passion for the Bible and want to encourage all people to consider what it has to say.