Interview Professor Dr. Jutta Heller, Germany

Lawyer Career: Success in the legal profession is no coincidence. Is it always just the result of hard work? Or is it also about doing the right thing at the right time? What is the secret of successful lawyers? What should one pay attention to from the very beginning? Do you really seize every opportunity? And is the decision for a career really a decision against a fulfilled private life? In our series "Success in the legal profession is no coincidence" we present top lawyers and their very personal recipe for success:

Prof. Dr. Jutta Heller

"Legal Tech" is the topic of the hour. Hardly a month passes without a new symposium on this topic "driving this colourful cow through the village again" - to the delight of the companies making money from it. For colleagues, on the other hand, it creates pressure and fuels fears about the future, financial worries and excessive demands through a flood of information.

The competition in the legal sector is fierce - and constantly increasing. The same applies to the demands on one's own performance. And it's not even about constant accessibility thanks to digitalization. Or gender diversity.

Lawyers have long since ceased to be just lawyers and possibly even office owners. They are responsible for personnel management, marketing, law firm strategy, acquisition, facility and law firm management, the development of new business areas and investments ...

And not to forget that there is such a thing as private life, there should be: Friends, family, parents. No wonder that more and more often it is precisely these private issues - long suppressed - that ultimately lead to a break with the spiral of everyday life. Crises of meaning, loneliness and even massive physical symptoms are increasing in our consulting practice.

While some people are able to keep up at this pace, let a good "wind of change" blow around their noses and see the rapid development above all as an opportunity, others find it increasingly difficult to keep up. They get out of the car, lapse into paralysis of action, tend to react rashly and show massive stress symptoms. RESILIENCE - is the term that has been coined by experts for this situation. A term that should also be given more attention in the legal sector.

We have therefore asked Prof. Dr. Jutta Heller, an expert in the field of "resilience", to give us some insights into her field of work as a guest author today:

Managing uncertainty with resilience

The sun is shining, best weather and still only the dark, threatening clouds on the horizon seem to be relevant for your life... Imagine that: Your company with about 200 employees is to be bought up. The other company has over 1000 employees. Secret negotiations are currently underway. And of course you talk to your colleagues about the situation and since nobody knows the exact details, everyone imagines this uncertain future. These fantasies with "what if..." cause fear, depress the mood, paralyse. Not a pleasant thought, but with the strategies of resilience you can take care of yourself in such a way that you remain capable of thinking and acting.

Resilience: What is that?

"Resilience" (lat. 'resilire' - to jump back, bounce back) means "resistance"; i.e. the ability to stand up again from any situation - by using your own resources. Resilience can be seen as a personality trait (Werner 1982), whereby more recent approaches assume a person-environment constellation (see Staudinger & Greve 2008, p. 118). In this approach, personality traits are seen as mediating factors. The way a risk situation is handled as well as environmental factors such as reference persons and social networks play a decisive role. Accordingly, resilience includes traits, but in particular competencies and changeable states with thought and behaviour patterns that are helpful for the stabilisation, health and productivity of people, especially in challenging, stressful situations. These "states", thought and behaviour patterns can be trained.

A small training excerpt

If you were to compare your current situation with a ship... which ship would you choose? (sailing ship, steamship, container ship, oil tanker etc.) What have you loaded? Is your ship full? Are you on the high seas or are you moored in the harbour? Do you have employees and guests on board? If you are travelling by ship, what is your course, is your destination clear and how close are you to your destination? What would you like to change? With such an introduction the participants are quickly "on the move", so that wishes for the training are openly expressed.

The following topics are frequently mentioned: Strategies for change, loosening up the basic attitude, having to fight less, dealing better with stress, getting courage for change, finding direction again, learning to say no, becoming efficient again.

Being successful together with corporate resilience

Stress, strain and mental illness are on the rise and with them the absenteeism rate in companies. Your top performers in particular are at risk. They would tear a large gap if they were absent. Increasing complexity, globalisation, digitalisation, restructuring and reorganisation demand flexible action from managers and employees despite difficult circumstances.

First of all, there is a need to raise awareness of the central fields of action so that people and organisations develop and expand their resilience and ability to cope with pressure. On the one hand, you can prepare for crises so that you remain flexible and capable of action during the crisis. After a crisis, you need stabilisation, recovery as well as growth and innovation based on experience. Rely on the development of more corporate resilience. You can do this with individuals, teams and the entire organization.

Orientate yourself to the new ISO standard for organisational resilience, so that you and your company are prepared for the turbulent world of VUKA.

Start with the resilience key Acceptance Acceptance and saying yes, e.g. to company decisions, especially in changes that one would have made differently oneself, is a challenge for managers and employees. In the first step, managers need effective self-coaching strategies. In the second step, they need coaching strategies for their employees in order to orientate them in a new and meaningful way and to be able to take them along in the change.

Helpful for this are strategies for letting go, which people can derive from previous change experiences, as well as the focus on changing their own inner world, so that fear can be reduced and joy can increasingly be felt again.

Ideas collected during the training:

  • Writing down your own thoughts.
  • Speak out the worst case scenario in concrete terms (dismissal, job at another location, no more job, etc.) and think the respective situation through to the end.
  • Become aware of your own strengths, focus on opportunities.
  • Give yourself time to mentally prepare for the future, to accept the change.
  • Enduring that one's own feelings fluctuate between the plus and minus pole, that is normal.
  • Getting together with other colleagues who are in a positive mood.
  • Allowing yourself to be supported as an individual and as a team in order to be able to orientate yourself well for the present and the future.

In training I experience again and again that acceptance is the decisive key to a new orientation.

Management of uncertainty - this is a central strength for securing one's own future. With resilience you will take a step forward.

Responsibility as a manager

Resilience was defined at the beginning as a person-environment constellation.

For a manager, a double perspective always applies here: on the one hand, he or she must look after himself/herself, on the other hand, he/she is responsible for his/her employees. Resilience should therefore not only be seen as an individual quality but also as an interactive quality. Rely on strength-oriented strategies by further developing the various resilience keys. Rely on risk-minimizing strategies by becoming more aware of yourself, respecting your limits and protecting yourself from overload. Rely on process-oriented strategies with methods from systemic consulting, in order to be able to react and adapt better to situations, both on your own and together with your teams.

In this way you will meet less resistance, experience more joy together with your employees, be powerful, healthy and satisfied. Acting in a resilient manner therefore means being able to deal well with the adversities of life. And this is exactly what will make teams and companies more successful.

Find your pilot to master the dangerous waters with currents and shoals with your ship of life. It is your personal decision on the way to becoming a resilient leader."

Thank you very much.

Do you run your law firm resiliently? How are you and your employees doing? Questions that you as the owner of the law firm, as a manager - as a captain - should definitely ask yourself - to stay in the picture.

Prof. Dr. Jutta Heller is specialized in individual and organizational resilience. She is a systemic consultant, business coach and certified speaker. Since 2015 she has been leading a 1-year training course in resilience consulting. She says about herself: "In my former life I have held on to a lot and accepted a lot in order not to change. However, through a major crisis I have learned that anything is possible if I am in good shape". This resource-oriented approach is important to her for all her client projects.

Further information is available at www.juttaheller.de.

Further information about resilience:

Heller, J. (2016): Resilience. 7 keys to more inner strength, 6th ed., Munich

Heller, J. (2016). That doesn't knock me down. Going through life with resilience, 3rd ed., Munich Heller, J. (2015). resilience. More inner strength for managers, Zurich

Heller, J. / Elbe, M. / Linsenmann, M. (2012). Corporate resilience. Factors of operational resilience, in: Management of uncertainty. New approaches beyond control and powerlessness, Bielefeld, 213-232 Resilience ABC


Blog www.juttaheller.de/blog



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