Experience reveals that removing the middleman between the community and the company performs a vital function. It develops a two way sense of appreciation as members learn to communicate with staff and employees are exposed to the very core of who and what makes community tick. When individuals realize that their comments are read by staff and corporate leaders they gain a sense of empowerment that in turn encourages them to vest in the outcome. It's always enlightening to realize that the people who post on the forums may be highly successful business owners, university professors or acclaimed experts in their field. It should be obvious that the member base is a tremendous resource when contemplating change.
Nothing provides more validation for community than knowing that the people at the top are listening and paying attention. Members are quick to pick up on roles within the company and want to be partners in the process. They often address the corporate principals by their first name and can consider them peers. However, this effect is not due to personal charisma alone and in fact one should use caution to avoid a cult of personality as the unifying glue to maintain the community. Instead its the shared social contract that cements the members and the staff into a comprehensive whole. Members should not view executives through starry eyes but as partners in the shared quest to improve success for everyone. As a result the community is equipped to survive without them when necessary as they lead toward the continual member self-reliance, growth and community based governance. In many forums this plays out as an ongoing cultural ebb and flow that infuses the discussion areas with fresh interaction as employees move in and out of the milieu.