Great Manager Profile: Georgina Lopez

By Aja Duncan on May 07, 2013

Georgina Lopez

Great Managers must balance a complex array of needs and priorities, people and processes, program goals and financial constraints. It takes a unique blend of talents to do this well. And Georgina Lopez is a natural. 

Originally from Laredo, Texas, Lopez is one of six children. When she was seven, her family moved to California. They eventually settled in the Bay Area and she has been here ever since.

Lopez has built a career at UCSF, where she just marked 21 years of service. As the Finance and Administration Manager for UCSF’s Institute for Global Health (IGH), AIDS Research Institute (ARI), Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (DEB), and Global Health Sciences (GHS), she has quite a full plate. But it is the work itself that feeds her. 

“I am really connected to UCSF’s motto of advancing health worldwide and contributing to the public good,” she says. Lopez is also very focused on UCSF’s international mission. “Local, global,” she calls it. It is where her heart is. 

Caring about UCSF’s mission and vision goes hand in hand with caring about her staff. In the 2011 Employee Engagement Survey by Gallup, Lopez’s team scored highest in terms of feeling cared for by their supervisor. And that caring has translated into a highly effective team. 

Ellyn Woo, financial analyst for GHS, IGH and ARI, has reported to Lopez for five years. “She’s awesome,” Woo says. “She shares her knowledge, gives honest feedback, and provides opportunities to further our training and development.” 

Over the years, Lopez has expanded Woo’s role and responsibilities in a way that has made it possible for her to advance. “This is a really important aspect of a good manager, to develop and support people,” Woo says. 

Lopez also involves her team in planning for impending changes. She lets her team know what’s coming and gets their input. As a result, Woo says, “staff feel more engaged and involved in the outcome.”

UCSF Manager Resources

For more information about the Great Manager Initiative, go to http://greatmanager.ucsf.edu/.

A Great Manager guide containing a self assessment and tips for caring for employees is available here [PDF].

Treating Staff as People First

Another member of Lopez’s team, Donna Langston, who is a financial analyst for GHS focusing primarily on post awards, describes Lopez’s management style this way: “She’s really dedicated to the team’s effort. She’s transparent in her communication style and she recognizes and acknowledges individual staff achievement.” By challenging her staff and keeping them connected to the value their contribution brings to both the programs and UCSF overall, Langston says, Lopez “fosters collaboration.” 

Teresa Moeller, an analyst for UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute and GHS, identifies the following two qualities as central to Lopez’s success as a manager: “she treats her staff as people first and employees second, and she strikes a delicate balance between professionalism and camaraderie.” 
Such are the elements of a great manager and the necessary ingredients for creating employee engagement. Gallup’s research has shown that it is the relationships between managers and those who report directly to them that is the glue that holds supportive workplaces together.

Lopez is well aware of the relationship between employee engagement and developing effective partnerships with faculty researchers. “We provide assistance to our partners in understanding resource constraints. We support them in optimizing grant monies and focus on helping them become self sustaining.” Through such partnering, Lopez says, “there is a positive outcome for everybody. It is rewarding for staff to be a part of the program’s success and it is rewarding for faculty to have trusted partners.”
Along with a compassionate management style, Lopez brings a wealth of administrative expertise. “She is the best argument I can think of for creating partnership between faculty and senior managers,” notes Paul Volberding, MD, director of the ARI, research director for GHS and director of the CTSI Global Health Program. 

Volberding has worked with Lopez for two and a half years. During that time, she has taught him how to effectively navigate UCSF’s financial systems and practices. With this knowledge, he has been able to make better programmatic decisions, ensuring the best research and health related outcomes. “UCSF is committed to having the university run better,” Volberding says. “Good managers are an important part of that.” 

Volberding knows that such an effort requires bringing faculty and managers together. “I want Georgina at the table from day one,” he says. “By partnering together, managers and faculty can define goals, set performance measures and then craft a budget to support them.”

Bringing an Encyclopedic Knowledge of UCSF

But Lopez brings more than just fiscal expertise; she has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of UCSF policies and practices. And she uses this knowledge to support faculty and program objectives. 

Colin Boyle, deputy director of GHS, points to Lopez’s experience, as well as her ability to develop new skills, as one of the hallmark of her success. “Her managerial skills have evolved with the needs of the organization.” Early on Global Health Sciences was small and entrepreneurial, but now has grown. With this growth has come the need for integration across various international programs and activities. “It is hard to find a manager who can effectively support both.” But Lopez, he notes, has done this well.

Beyond that, Lopez has a high level of professionalism while being compassionate with her team. “As a result, her team knows they can count on her for guidance and, too, that she cares about their well-being.  This is evident,” Boyle says “in the hard work of her team.” 

Lopez sums it up this way, “it is about having standards and helping people meet them. If they can’t, then it is my responsibility to let them go. Dealing with difficult situations is as important as supporting those who are stellar contributors. It is only by attending to both that I can ensure the best outcomes for my team and the advancement of the university’s local and global mission.”

Photo by Susan Merrell