I have been working in cybersecurity division at my employer for about 8 years and I'm the technical lead / team lead. I have 5 direct reports, with my manager having 9, including me. Our team is a subset of the larger cybersecurity division with about 50 people.

Since I was promoted to team lead, I have been holding daily office hours for 1 hour per day. These are meant to allow any of my direct reports to request help, discuss work in progress, solicit feedback on performance etc. All team members are encouraged to contribute and speak their minds.

Recently, I have encountered a problem that this 1 hour is becoming inadequate as a result of a few team members taking up the entire time slot for their agenda items, to the detriment that other attendees do not have sufficient time allocated to their issues they wanted to discuss. Example agenda items team members brought up included highly technical questions of pen test findings, vulnerability scanning strategy, and cybersecurity incident response updates. To make matters worse, team members are not on an equal playing field experience or skills wise.

I pride myself as a manager who is collegial, fair, transparent, and open. I am often in many meetings so extending office hours does not seem like a viable long term option.

Edit to respond to comments and answers

The office hours is limited to my 5 direct reports only, not the larger cybersecurity division of 50. The goal is make it a safe space where mentoring can occur and group members can request help from me, and also peer feedback from others on my team.

To give an example, a vulnerability scan is complete and team members have completed written analysis on the initial results. Now they attend office hours to confirm if their analysis is sound or need peer feedback to complete analysis on a particular vulnerability.

There is structure, just that uneven experience levels are creating a time crunch to detriment of other office hour attendees.

What can I do to accommodate all team members during office hours so no one is left out?

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    When you say "team members" do you mean your direct reports or anyone on the 50 person team? Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 17:42
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    Direct reports only @Joel
    – Anthony
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 17:45
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    @JoeStrazzere that's actually a good suggestion... please consider posting it as an answer
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 17:52
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    I'm voting to close this question because there are a few obvious solutions (e.g. making a longer time slot, limiting the duration each topic or team member can use or limiting the range of possible topics that can be discussed during the time slot) and the best choice among them depends entirely on your goals (e.g. if you don't want them to discuss certain topics during the time slot, making a longer time slot isn't a good solution) and the specifics (e.g. if that's the only/best place they can get an answer to their question, preventing them from discussing it there isn't a good solution). Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 15:28
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    I agree, standards on StackExchange call for effort put into solving the problem, potential solutions tried, etc. so we aren't just giving a list of "the obvious". Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 19:15

9 Answers 9


Sounds like you aren't scheduling meetings for things that need meetings. Things like pen test findings and incidence reports probably should have meetings to go over and discuss, and not just be reported into the ether. If this is the only way your team members have to discuss these issues with you, you should probably be making it easier to discuss those issues with you, meeting-wise.

Schedule meetings concerning these issues which really ought to have meetings dedicated to them, and it will leave your office hours open for more office hours-type stuff.

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    If all else fails, you can suggest this in the 'office hours' meeting itself. If things start getting too detailed, simply suggest scheduling a meeting later that day to go into it (with the relevant people).
    – Korosia
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 10:31
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    Probably also a good idea is to not have meetings at all and just share things asynchronously via some chat tool. Sometimes all these topics can require more and more people such that everyone is now in meetings all the time. Async would help provide for non-blocking conversations/collaborations. Otherwise, yea, OP needs "meetings" for that stuff.
    – coblr
    Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 0:59
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    @coblr Not a fan of that solution. Async is awesome in a project context, but needs to be segmented and relevant. Otherwise the message volume becomes too large to easily retrieve relevant information and team members will not be up to date.
    – MvZ
    Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 14:03

From reading the question, it sounds like you have a daily 1 hour round table with team members that has basically become a free-for-all that is essentially out of control.

My first thought is that if your direct reports need an hour a day with you and that is not sufficient, you have an even bigger problem than agenda management. You have a serious skillset and empowerment deficiency that needs immediate correction. If this goes beyond your direct reports, then you have a time management problem for yourself.

You should not be devoting this level of attention to people outside of your responsibility area. That's not to say you should be ignoring them so much as making sure that your direct reports are first to be "fed", and all other requests are accommodated on a first come first serve basis.


Note: I typed this section up before the comment was made that it was already restricted to direct reports.

Your people need to come first. When creating the daily agenda, make sure your direct reports are given highest priority for discussion. Since this is a regularly scheduled discussion, this is not the place for external high priority items. Those should be escalated through a different mechanism. Make sure your people are heard and everyone else is having their concerns addressed in the order that makes the most sense for that group. Accept that you will not get to everyone, and it is not your responsibility to make it so. Your responsibility is to your direct reports, everything else is gravy.

Time Manage

Time box certain discussions. It's very easy in working sessions for discussion items to go on long after they've served their purpose. Keep discussion items on topic, and disallow the repetition of discussion. If a topic has been covered, move on. If the discussion is not productive to the group, move it elsewhere. Since this is your office hours, if you are not providing direct meaning to the topic, suggest a parking lot discussion or a different person to assist. Do not allow side car discussions to derail the purpose of the meeting (which is to get your attention and expertise on the topic).

Create a Bias for Action

This should not be a time for complaints or nonsense. Every discussion should be aimed at deciding an action. If a discussion does not lead to an action, the time has been wasted, and you need to be very jealous of your time. Constantly be asking, what is the action we're driving towards? Who owns this action? When will the action be done? If you can't answer any of these things, the topic needs to be removed from the agenda.

An hour a day with this kind of group is intensely expensive. It needs to be very agenda driven and very jealously kept on task at all times. If it's still not enough for the team to complete their tasks and objectives, then you need to begin evaluating the performance of staff and have honest conversations with your manager about next steps towards training or improvement.

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    +1 for time-boxing. With 5 team members it seems natural to give them each 10 minutes for their action items and to save 10 minutes for further discussion. Also you might be able to delegate some of this to your team. If one of the items isn't time critical, have the person bringing it up meet with another member or all 4 without you and try to figure out what to do, then send you an email with what they discussed or go over it in the next day's meeting. In this the team members should each be prioritizing their own items and should lead with a quick run-down of all before going into depth Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 14:05

I'd do it differently. However you try and schedule this will eventually run into problems. Either people will need more than an hour or they'll feel obligated to find something to discuss when it's their turn, or they forget to mention needed details.

My strategy would be to encourage everyone to write down any issues they're facing and email it to me. Then I allocate time to checking these whenever they arise and schedule an in person meeting if need be, or ask for clarification.

This means I get informed of an issue when it arises, not a set time, and can make decisions with all the necessary information. It also means that people are giving me better information as they think through and compose their email. The ability to ask for clarification for a better picture before any meeting needs to take place is under-rated, people can often do a much better job at clarification when they're in front of the issue than when they're in a meeting away from it.

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    Asynchronous, targeted communication is insanely more efficient than "I need assistance from a coworker so I should ask tomorrow on the daily".
    – Vorac
    Commented Nov 13, 2021 at 3:00

What can I do to accommodate all team members during office hours so no one is left out?

Seems that you need a schedule or calendar, where your reports can ask or make an appointment with you and so the allotted time works for everybody fairly.

When people schedule a meeting with you they could also be required to specify a topic or agenda, so everything remains on track.

You could also consider putting a maximum amount of time for these meetings, so a single or few members don't use up all of your office hours.

On a side note, I know you say extended office hours is not a long term solution, but if this single hour is falling short lately, and if the suggestions made above don't improve this much, then perhaps it would suggest that you will need more than one hour to accommodate everybody.


You need to be very clear about the purpose of any meetings. A nice practice is to separate the following:

  • 1-on-1 is a meeting between you and your subordinates to talk about how they can grow in their role and how the organization (you) can support them better. 1-on-1 can be a recurring meeting weekly, or so. Also, this is not a type of meeting for reporting or asking your input for specific work items.

  • Team standup is an all-hands meeting to report on what everyone is working on, and what support they need. Various formats exist and typically each team member gets 60 seconds or so to keep discussion up to the point. Some suggest starting every day with a quick standup to get everyone started.

  • Planning meetings to plan the next project/iteration/sprint.

  • Retrospectives to reflect on what went well and what can be improved. This type of meeting is done after important milestones etc.

  • Misc work meetings that can be scheduled as needed with a clear agenda and purpose.

With this structure, you can be sure each discussion has an appropriate place and everyone gets a slot to talk to you.

  • 1-1 is by definition, subordinate singular and should be obsessively private. Having the team present for 1-1's would be bad for so many reasons. But I like your coverage of the various types of meetings. Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 19:57

There are a couple of things that I read in the question that piqued my interest.

Firstly it's not clear to what you are trying to achieve within your office hours, is this time set aside for people management, work management or both?

But what I do see is an unstructured approach that may not be meeting the needs of your team members or yourself. There needs to be clear delineation between each of these type of meetings.

People management, needs to be structured, each of your 5 team members should be have a scheduled and structured one to one on a regular basis. This is private meeting and the time for you and the individual to discuss performance, plan development, provide feedback and raise any concerns that either of you have. Team members may also bring up things in a private meeting that they are unwilling to share in an open forum.

Work management, is scheduled and structured time (with an agenda) when you meet as a group and discuss important updates, current workload, team priorities and shared information. The team get to hear what everyone else is working on and it gives team members the opportunity to elicit help or provide insights within the group.

Office hours, are an awesome idea for drop in type single, actionable questions. Team members may have bottle necks, blockages or may be seeking assistance. It's good that they know there's a set time each day that they can catch you to bring you up to speed on everything.

The final piece is to remember that as a people manager/ team leader, your success is based on the success of your team. This means that although you provide office hours and meetings, there are going to be times when you need to make yourself available to your team regardless of other priorities you may have going on.

Under your current arrangement it seems you are making 5 hours a week available to your team. That's about 12.5% of your time. I'd suggest that this is at the very low end of what is needed to effectively manage a team. Increasing the time you set aside for team management and scheduling one to one and team meetings and maintaining your office hours is going to take up significantly more time, likely more than 25% of your time.

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    Office hours are meant to be a safe space, ideally for both peopke management such as mentoring, and to discuss work blockers. My goal is to take my direct reports under my wings in a safe space
    – Anthony
    Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 5:48

I realize that several people have already mentioned standups, but I suggest that you look at the way Scrum leverages the daily standup (aka "the daily scrum").

  1. Everybody speaks for 3 minutes, 1 for each of 3 topics: what I achieved yesterday; what I plan to do today; what is getting in my way.
  2. Whenever a team member identified a blocker, the Scrum Master (your good self) writes it on the whiteboard, and moves on with no discussion.
  3. The Scrum Master needs to be bloody minded: 3 minutes is 180 seconds, not 181, not 185, not 300. An egg timer is a really good idea. Nothing is allowed to interrupt the daily scrum (maybe, if the building is on fire...). It might be a good idea to let your manager know what you are trying.
  4. Five direct reports plus you gives 6 times 3 = 18 minutes, so you still have 42 minutes left from your hour. Everyone who isn't needed to resolve items on your list of blockers can leave.
  5. Schedule a review periodically to see how the team members feel about the practice: what is working well? what is not working well? What could be try to improve.

I had some resistance when I first tried this, and I had a bit of luck: one team member insisted that he was awaiting an important call, and would take it during the meeting regardless of what I said; when the call came he turned to the phone, upset his coffee over his keyboard and all over his suit, and swore loudly at the person who'd called. I quickly told the team that the Scrum Gods didn't like the Scrum being disrespected; they all laughed (all but one), and I never had trouble again. Luck happens.


Get a Bell and a Stopwatch

One hour.

Divide by number of speakers.

Divide by half to allow for discussion and questions.

That's the time they have.

They run over : Ring The Bell and tell them they've overrun their allocated time.

Be strict and unwavering. They'll get the message.

You know how it is : give them an hour, they'll take an hour. Give them two hours, they'll take two hours.

So 5 direct reports - allow for 6 - there's you as well ! That's 10 minutes per person with 5 minutes to speak and 5 minutes to flag issues and questions for later follow up by e.g. email.

daily office hours for 1 hour per day.

At most what should be discussed at this type of meeting is a summary of what each person has to update other groups on.

Not the details of what they did or matters that do not concern other departments. Just the overview.

Speakers should note questions and respond by email later if that requires detail or as briefly as possible in speaking.

These are meant to allow any team member to request help, discuss work in progress, solicit feedback on performance etc. All team members are encouraged to contribute and speak their minds.

Which is not what an hour long daily meeting is for. If they need help - submit an email explaining what help, what cost, how long and why. They can flag that they feel they need help at a meeting like this but there is not time to go into such detail and discussion.

Discussing work in progress. No, that's something they should be doing between individual teams with maybe weekly updates on what they're doing and their plan to the group. They should be raising issues and seeking technical input from other groups as the need arises (what is email for ?).

Feedback on performance every day ? Don't be ridiculous. Feedback on performance is for monthly meetings, maybe every two weeks. The more you focus on performance the more people spend effort aiming to create good looking performance stats, not good work. This is particularly the case if performance become a competitive issue where people are trying to make their team or work look better than other people or teams - already a problem in most organizations, but you're making it a daily arena. Don't do this. This way madness lies.

  • "Office hours" sounds like a professor's office hours, e.g. fielding 1 student at a time. If it was an "all present meeting" then that would have a different name. Also, every subordinate would have 50 minutes of their time wasted. Time isn't free. Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 19:17
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica I fail to see how their time is wasted. The purpose is mostly to listen to what other people have to report and record and ask questions. The purpose is not to allow people to bask in the limelight for an hour. Are meetings useless is a debate for another time - many are indeed pure waste. The OP may not even need a daily meeting, but if you're having one, control the darn thing and have sensible and realisable goals. Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 19:48
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    I'm not arguing meetings are useless. I'm arguing office hours aren't meetings. Actual meetings such as stand-ups are for content each worker has for the whole team. (Collegial) office hours are for 1-on-1 issues of no interest to others, hence their time is wasted. Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 19:52
  • @Harper, only my direct reports are invited to this meeting. I will edit into the main question
    – Anthony
    Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 5:36
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica I have no idea why you keep refering to "1 to 1" or "collegial" in reference to my answer, which mentioned none of those. "office hours" is when most meetings take place and I'm at a loss to know when you think employees should be in meetings - on their own time ? Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 6:01

TL;DR: You give your team 1 hour per day where you approachable, when you should try to be approachable whenever you can.

Office hours are a tool for high level managers to be available for skip level discussions where needed. By choosing office hours managers can be approachable while still being conscious of their time. As a manager of only 5 people, this is not the right tool to use. Being approachable for your direct reports to unblock them or address their concerns should be your top priority and you should aim to make time for it whenever you are not currently in a meeting with someone. Especially it should have priority over your work as an individual contributor.

I am often in many meetings so extending office hours does not seem like a viable long term option.

This seems like the real problem here. If you are in so many meetings that you cannot afford more than 5 hours with your team members, it seems like you are doing way to many meetings. If you spend more than half of your week in meetings, I suggest to prioritize.

Another obvious way to give team members an equal share of meeting time, is to schedule regular 1-on-1s with your team members. Whenever there is an issue that warrants a bigger group to discuss it, you can encourage your team members to schedule a meeting with the right people. Though make sure they are setting a concrete agenda and are clear about the outcomes they want from that meeting.

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