Creating Cultures Where People Feel Safe To Remove Their Masks w/ Ashanti Branch
Best-Self Management · 54 minutes ·

Creating Cultures Where People Feel Safe To Remove Their Masks w/ Ashanti Branch

In the workplace, personal hopes and dreams might not align with outside expectations. Many of us erect a wall between our work life and our personal life. As a result, we miss out on the possibility to form deeper interpersonal connections. Today’s guest has made it his mission to help bridge these gaps with people before they’ve even entered the workforce.


In This Episode

  • How the psychological masks that we all wear hold us back [2:18]
  • Creating a dynamic in companies and schools that align with their people’s hopes, dreams, and goals [6:10]
  • Why companies need to create a culture that encourages vulnerability [8:55]
  • What happens when an organization creates a culture of psychological safety [13:03]
  • Creating an atmosphere of trust and openness [22:40]
  • Tips and techniques for creating a better culture [29:06]
  • Creating environments of safety while accounting for racial disparities [36:43]
  • Recognizing the barriers that hold you back [47:30]


About Ashanti Branch

Ashanti Branch works to change how young men of color interact with their education and how their schools interact with them.

Raised in Oakland by his single mother on welfare, Ashanti left the inner-city to study civil engineering at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. As a high school math teacher, he started the Ever Forward Club to provide support for African American and Latino males who were not achieving their potential.


The Dangers of Masks

Ashanti has seen the dangers of wearing (metaphorical) masks in school and the workplace. When people put up these barriers it hides who they really are. As a result, it becomes harder to achieve the goals we are really after. That’s where company culture comes in. By encouraging their people to remove their psychological masks, work can become a place of life affirming joy and creativity.


Overcoming Fear and Welcoming Vulnerability

It’s important to recognize that the whole notion of wearing psychological masks derives from an illusion of safety. When people are able to overcome fear, they can be vulnerable in front of others. We, along with Ashanti, have found that this vulnerability leads to honesty. When people are honest and able to take risks because of it, stronger relationships develop.


Food for Thought

Is there a place or time where you’re comfortable removing your psychological masks? And as Ashanti asks, how have you been complicit in the reality you don’t want to see?



“If at home no one sees how brilliant you are, at school your grades don’t show how brilliant you are, but you got some talents inside of you, then you could be walking through the world believing that you don’t matter.” [5:26]

“Oftentimes we miss out on deep connections because people are either afraid - there’s no psychological safety to talk about it - or they feel like no one would even care.” [8:21]

“When people feel like they’re cared about - you care about them more than just as a cog in the organization, but as a person - I think they appreciate it.” [33:57]


Key Takeaways

1. It takes effort and time to build a culture of trust. Yet, when an organization intentionally presents vulnerability as a strength, people will be their true and authentic selves. This naturally leads to a culture in which people feel safe and cared for. 

2. A lack of honesty is usually rooted in fear. This not only hurts productivity, but it also prevents necessary relationships from forming. That’s why it’s crucial that there should never be negative consequences for telling the truth.


Links & Resources

Find Ashanti Branch online

Follow Ashanti on Linkedin | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook 


Ever Forward Club

Follow Ever Forward Club on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook



The Masks We All Wear 

“The Mask You Live In”

Reboot by Jerry Colonna


Find 15Five online

Follow 15Five on Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin


Podcast production & marketing support by the team at Counterweight Creative

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