Whether it is done by kissing babies, shaking hands with strangers or simply flashing a winning smile, an ability to connect with the people is a basic requirement for any successful politician. But it is one that Tung Chee-hwa has struggled to fulfil. The chief executive's reluctance to play the people's politician has helped distance his administration from the public. So it was essential that this be on the list of improvements to be made in the wake of the mass demonstration on July 1. Judging by the reception Mr Tung received from the petitioners waiting to confront him outside the first Executive Council meeting of the new session yesterday, he is making some progress. He spent 10 minutes listening to their concerns and carried out the requisite pressing of flesh and patting of children's heads. More important, those who came to air their grievances were left with the impression that Mr Tung was genuinely concerned. This approach is in marked contrast to what had been his practice before July 1. The chief executive would swiftly collect the petitions without comment and hurry into the government offices with hardly so much as a wave. Other efforts have also been made to give him more of a public face. In the past, there have been times when Mr Tung has avoided the limelight, preferring to work quietly behind the scenes. Even after the demonstration that shook his administration, he kept a low profile for more than two weeks. But when he emerged, the new approach was evident. Mr Tung declared his intention to listen to the people and fought back tears when asked if he had considered resigning. He was also quick to attend the scene of the Tuen Mun highway bus crash, expressing concern and visiting victims receiving treatment. There are signs that his efforts are beginning to pay off. A poll released yesterday shows the chief executive's popularity continuing a gradual rise from its record low in July. This will be mainly due to improving sentiment as the economy starts to rebound. But Mr Tung's charm offensive can only help. Listening to the people, however, is the easy part. Delivering on promises to tackle their problems will prove far more difficult. Especially when there is a need to make tough policy decisions and adopt only the views that have sufficient merit. Developing sound policies that enjoy the support of the public will be the ultimate test.