Leigh Friend
Regional Manager
Lanes Utilities South East Region

Leigh Friend

  • Regional Manager
  • Lanes Utilities South East Region

Rising star Leigh is in a hurry to help others succeed

Lanes Utilities Regional Manager Leigh Friend once wanted to be a firefighter. Now he leads a team of 115 people, dealing with potentially hazardous situations of a different kind – and he is just 28.

Leigh is in charge of Lanes Utilities’ South East Region, which provides highly-responsive 24/7 maintenance support for Thames Water’s wastewater network services (WNS) across South East London, Kent, Surrey, and Sussex. In the four and a half years since he joined the operation, he has risen from being an assistant CCTV drainage survey technician to heading up a sewer and drain maintenance team that turns over £20 million.

Lanes Utilities, part of Lanes Group plc, is Thames Water’s sole WNS maintenance partner, carrying out more than 1,100 jobs a day to keep sewers and drains flowing for 15 million wastewater customers.

Leigh, from Sittingbourne, in Kent, said: “Since joining Lanes in November 2014, when it took over the Thames Water contract I was on, I’ve loved every minute of the work I’ve been doing.

“I meet all new starters to welcome them to my team, and I always tell them, if you want to build a career and go somewhere with Lanes, we are happy to help you get there.

“As someone who’s had such a good experience, and made good progress, I can say there’s no reason they can’t do it as well, if they want it, and make the effort to achieve it.”

Leigh left school after completing his GCSEs and originally planned to join the fire service. First, he trained as a plumber then worked as a floor screeder before switching careers again to work in the drainage industry. He said: “We don’t fight fires, but we do work in high-risk places, such as inside sewers and wastewater chambers, which requires the highest safety standards, confined space training, and often the use of breathing apparatus.

“So, in lots of ways, I still get a buzz out of working for an emergency service, where every day is different, and we get the pleasure of helping customers by dealing with difficult situations.”

Leigh has risen rapidly through the ranks because his work colleagues, and Thames Water counterparts, could see his talent as a motivational manager, and his determination to succeed. In the nine months he has been the Regional Manager, he has overcome significant challenges to turn the South East region into one of the best performing wastewater maintenance operations across the Thames Water region.

He has been supported with structured leadership training, including attending IOSH Managing Safely, as well as externally-delivered courses on employee motivation and managing productive teams. Leigh has also always felt that he is able to turn to more experienced regional managers, who have been happy to offer their advice. Lanes Utilities Talent Acquisition Specialist Cathy Dyos said: “Right from the start, we knew Leigh would be one to watch. He is a great people manager and quickly earns the respect of his colleagues. 

“We want to find the best people to work at Lanes, and if we can find them in the organisation, all the better because we’re rewarding loyalty and excellent performance.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t put rising stars like Leigh through their paces at interviews. But at Lanes, we support internal promotion, and always support colleagues like Leigh to build their confidence as effective leaders.” 

Leigh said: “I’ve always been ambitious, and it’s great that Lanes has trusted me to progress quickly. I’m now enjoying using my positive energy to support others wanting to do well. We succeed as a team, with Lanes and Thames Water working together, and everyone has the opportunity to share that success.”
 

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