One Foot In

Building Social Skills In Leaders—A Key to Success (and Raises)

building social skills in leaders

Building social skills in leaders is critical. Discover strategies to overcome social anxiety and build team confidence.

In today’s demanding workplace environments, effective leadership requires more than just technical skills. Building social skills in leaders is critical. However, for many of us—and a staggering 65% of Gen Z—feeling “speechless” around coworkers is a common challenge. We’ll explore the importance of overcoming social anxiety at work and provide team-building exercises to improve social skills that you can run during offsite retreats.


Why is building social skills in leaders important?

Improved Communication

Leaders who are comfortable in social settings can communicate more effectively with their teams, fostering clarity and understanding.

Enhanced Team Collaboration

Overcoming social anxiety enables leaders to build stronger relationships with team members, promoting trust, cooperation, and collaboration.

Increased Confidence

Confidence is essential for effective leadership. Overcoming social anxiety empowers leaders to project confidence, inspire others, and navigate challenging situations with ease.


3 Team-Building Exercises to Building Social Skills In Leaders:


The Power of Small Talk

Science shows that sharing stories promotes neural coupling, strengthening bonds and connections within teams. But not all of us are naturals at small talk. Nevertheless, it’s a valuable skill that can strengthen team bonds.



  1. Set up pairs or small groups of team members.
  2. Provide some conversation prompts such as “Have you ever…,”; “What if…”; and “Did you know that…”.
  3. Allow participants a minute or two to jot down their questions to avoid brain freeze.
  4. Let the conversations flow naturally, allocating about 2-5 minutes per session.
  5. Repeat the process 2-3 times, switching groups to allow for more practice.


Overcoming Head Trash

Negative self-talk, often referred to as “head trash,” can severely impact an individual’s confidence and effectiveness as a leader. This training, while beneficial for sales teams, is useful for all groups. It focuses on fostering confidence but it’s also a fundamental for building social skills in leaders.



  1. Explain the concept of “head trash” and its impact on confidence and communication.
  2. Ask participants to list their self-limiting beliefs at work and then counter them with new, supportive beliefs.
  3. Outline the actions that individuals with these new beliefs would take.
  4. Encourage participants to take these actions, even if they feel unnatural.
  5. Managers can support team members in putting these new behaviors into practice through coaching and modeling.


Let’s Play

Role-playing is particularly helpful for younger team members and allows senior members to mentor, even if they don’t have their own teams yet.



  1. Identify common workplace scenarios requiring interpersonal skills.
  2. Assign roles and provide backstories for scenarios.
  3. Encourage participants to take on roles they don’t usually play.
  4. Provide constructive feedback after each session and discuss improvement strategies.
  5. Rotate roles to allow everyone to practice different scenarios and perspectives.


As AI and co-piloting become more common in the workplace, there’s a risk that human interaction skills may be lost. Overcoming social anxiety and building social skills in leaders is essential. Embracing the art of small talk, tackling shared challenges, and practicing role-playing scenarios are just a few strategies that can empower teams to overcome social anxiety and unlock their full potential.

Need help running these leadership workshops? Drop us a note.