Lee Ngee – Overcoming self-doubt in the pursuit of growth

Being in senior management may mean that more eyes are on you, but Standard Chartered Brunei’s Lee Ngee believes that there is strength in showing vulnerability


Taking the leap to switch roles within the Bank was one of the best decisions I ever made, enabling me to enrich my experience and knowledge.

I joined Standard Chartered Brunei as Head of HR in 2009. I have since taken on different roles such as a Branch Manager, Head of Client Experience, Process and Governance, and then Chief Information Officer. Today, I am the Country Chief Operations Officer (COO) and CPBB (Consumer, Private and Business Banking) COO of Standard Chartered Brunei.

I'm thankful and extremely fortunate to have leaders who believed in me. As part of my growth conversation, I raised the idea of taking on a role outside of HR to my line manager then and she proposed that I managed a branch. It was one of the best experiences in my career life as I had to manage multiple facets of banking – managing a team, sales, customer service, operations and many more.

What I've realised is that the Bank is a learning institution with many opportunities which we can capitalise on.  Our mantra to "never settle" challenges us to be better in everything we do.

With every career move, while I was excited moving into these new roles, I experienced self-doubt on different occasions. On my toughest days, I look back and see how far I’ve come, and that gives me the motivation to press on.

I recall vividly when I first moved to head the operations department where I had a big team to manage. I had to learn the different processes and systems, balancing between maintaining a macro balcony view and familiarising myself at the ground level at the same time. In essence, I felt like a pilot learning to fly while piloting the plane, supervising the crew, and reading the manual on how to operate the engine!

Over the years, I've learnt that our leaders don’t want to see us fail. In fact, most of the time, they see our potential more clearly than we do our own. When self-doubt creeps in, I take a break, ask myself what triggers the emotion then craft an action plan to address it.

Coaching is something I hold close to my heart. Right before Covid-19 hit, I signed up for the Bank’s IGNITE programme and subsequently became a certified coach. Through the course, I learnt a lot about myself while learning how to coach others. In coaching, we encourage our clients to express emotions and acknowledge vulnerability.  There is strength in vulnerability.

With this I realised that it’s okay for my team to see that I am human too and I don’t know everything. What I don’t know, I ask and look for answers. I do my best every day and when I make mistakes, I go back to the drawing block and try again. I want my team to know that it’s okay to be less than perfect as long as you give it your best each time.

Beyond coaching, I am also a Mental Health First Aider, another initiative led by the Bank. I was motivated to get certified after witnessing the impact of depression on a high-performer and I was not able to help much. Mental health issues got exacerbated during the pandemic. Even if we may not know what to do, sometimes just by being present is all that is required.

Ultimately, we are all human and we have our ups and downs – don’t be afraid to show it. Above all, be kind.