"Sometimes a personal victory is just being in good standing with your employees". Interview with the Toll Plaza Manager on M4 Don

On Defender’s Day, we traditionally honor those who had military experience. These people are always a model of patience, strength, duty and dignity. Such qualities are appreciated in UTS as well: our managers face daily hardships, which they overcome worthily, thus leading their employees.
On the eve of the holiday, we talked with Sergey Lesnyh, TP Manager of a new section on M4 Don highway, a Losevo-Pavlovsk bypass. He told why it is important to communicate directly with the road users, how the local residents’ life has changed with the highway advent and why legal education and experience in working with people are great advantages for a manager.

Sergey, what are the routine duties of a TP Manager?

— As a leader, I coordinate people’s work, provide them with proper working conditions, and distribute tasks. Under my supervision, there are 125 employees including 35 cashiers, 15 traffic safety inspectors and 14 machine workers at two Toll Plazas on 636 km and 672 km. This is a new team, often I need to show them by my own example how to act in certain situations.

Does it mean that you even communicate with the road users?

— Indeed, though it happens only in exceptionally difficult situations. For example, young employees from government agencies sometimes believe that they are eligible to pass without payment. My task is to explain why they have to pay tolls. As a rule, they get it right.

Did you experience any troubles during such "negotiations"?

— Only once. 15 buses tried to enter the toll site without payment, of course. They ignored both the cashier and the shift supervisor and I had to come to the rescue. Going out, I faced oriental people in all the cars. What's the price of a fragile girl’s word for them? Calmly and thoroughly I explained to them what consequences may entail after their violation. Finally, all passed, and everyone paid! Sometimes a personal victory is just being in good standing with your employees.

Tell us about the results of the road site operation? Do people use it, do they like it?

— Our highway site is long awaited. Perhaps, each driver knows about the famous multi-kilometer traffic jam forming during the vacation season in Losevo and Pavlovsk. Last year to improve the situation there were introduced restrictions for trucks, alternative routes were worked out, but only a new highway section bypassing these settlements solved the problem completely.
Now many motorists express gratitude for opening a detour. Even a card was presented once (smiling). They say we work for the benefit of ordinary users who want to drive fast and with comfort. And they are right! 
The road is nice, everything is properly organized at rest areas. By the way, within six months of operation, almost 3.4 million cars drove via the toll site. After the opening on August 15, we recorded the maximum number of passes per day – 52.8 thousand. And it's on the new road! 58% – more than half of them, paid with transponders.

You say that everything is organized, but there are no cafes on the road site?

— Indeed, there are no cafes, but they were not planned initially. Our site is transit. A driver pays for speed and comfort, absence of traffic jams and good lighting – these are advantages of the road site operated by UTS. If you want to relax and have a bite, then there is always an alternative nearby – the road through Losevo and Pavlovsk settlements, where one can stay even overnight if needed.

Are your employees locals? Was it hard for them to adapt?

— Right, my subordinates are from Shestakovo, Losevo and Pavlovsk. When they first came to the company, they believed that UTS is a private entity, accumulating all money from tolling service in its pockets. They had no understanding of the company processes, hence remained wary at first. But in the course of training, certification, and subsequent work, they saw a lot, e.g. that all the funds received are transferred to the State Company Avtodor, then came the understanding and respect.
But these are not the only hardships. The ones, who always are on the front line, are cashiers – they communicate with drivers and work with money. What is most valued in this work is utmost attentiveness, intelligence, and courtesy. It's sometimes really difficult at the beginning. Especially for them, we constantly hold briefings on how to work with the road users, journalists, bloggers, crisis communication classes, master classes on basic legal issues and safety under stress conditions. The management shares both personal experience and experience taken on the other sections.

What an approach to the team! It feels like you are a master of working with people.

— Actually, service in the state authorities and two diplomas of higher education have their effect.

Which one helps the most in the work?

— Perhaps, legal education, but the one in management is doing good as well (laughing).

Your first year of work in the company immediately fell on a difficult time, the coronavirus pandemic. Has it affected your goals?

— The task of any manager is a proper delegation and provision of good working conditions to the employees. These factors impact the productivity of the entire site and the non-stop traffic on the road. The company is primarily its employees, so the more comfortable the working conditions are, the more effective are the results of the operator.
Under current circumstances, we pay even more attention to the safety of our employees and road users. To prevent the spread of coronavirus and other respiratory diseases, all UTS employees wear masks and gloves, use antiseptics. Before the shift, they must check their temperature. In addition, we use recirculators in the premises, increased the number of ventilations and wet cleanings with disinfectants in offices and vehicles. I think, these measures allowed us to stop the spread of the disease: among the employees of this road site only 8 cases of disease were diagnosed during the pandemic.

How do you like spending your spare time?
— Work takes most of my time, but when I have a free day, I go fishing. My wife also likes it, we even compete from time to time, who catches more.