Jarle Moen, general manager of the luxury hotel THE THIEF in Oslo, first opening its doors back in January 2013, has been highly successful in establishing his hotel, owned by Nordic Choice Hotels, as one of the country’s leading luxury retreats. Moen has an impressive track record, as general manager for several Nordic Choice Hotels and is ready to join HSMAI Region Europe’s Mike Leven Mentor Program, as well as the Culture and People Advisory Board.
Moen’s huge success earned him the HSMAI Norway title Hotelier of the Year 2017 last winter, and just to give you an idea of the man’s qualities, here’s what the jury, made up by leading CEOs from Norway’s travel and hospitality industry, had to say:
The winner has been working at a high pace and been an efficient hotel leader for many years. He is in possession of much industry knowledge, which comes in handy both in day-to-day operations or extensive turnarounds. Team building is among his strong suits, which is crucial in problem-free and optimal hotel management. In everyday life he truly enjoys the company of guests and co-workers.
For many years he has been a loyal and highly treasured chain employee. He has been handed many challenges, solved to the owners’ great satisfaction. Today he leads a unique hotel for the fourth year in a row [this was last year, editor’s remark] and has managed to place it on the map as one of the world’s leading hotels. The hotel at Tjuvholmen has achieved excellent results and received a deluge of international awards.
The winner bestows a lot of confidence and responsibilities on his co-workers, and excels in nurturing talents and offering people new opportunities. These managerial qualities were decisive when he was invited as a mentor in HSMAI’s international mentor program. As chair of the Norwegian Hospitality Association’s Oslo and Akershus branch he assumes an industry responsibility, champions favorable framework conditions for the industry and is a visible spokesman in the media.
But it doesn’t stop there. Add the following to the list, and you get a more complete picture:
- 2018: Condé Nast Gold List
- 2017: Condé Nast Gold List
- HSMAI Norway: Veiviseren (pathfinder) 2016
- VK 2017 (Nordic Choice Hotels’ Winter Conference): Nominee for General Manager of the Year and Hotel of the Year 2016
- 2016: Condé Nast Readers’ Choice Awards – #1 Hotel in Northern Europe
- 2016: Nettavisen Best Hotel in Norway
- 2015 and 2016: Grand Travel Awards Hotel of the Year
- 2016: Condé Nast Gold List
- 2014: Best Spa Boutique Hotel in Europe
- 2014: Nordic Choice Hotels – New Hotel of the Year
- #1 hotel in Norway, Trip Advisor Travelers Choice Awards
‘I am, of course, proud of the many awards, won together with the great team at THE THIEF. It is hard to highlight awards on the list, but the Condé Nast Readers’ Choice Awards as the number one Hotel in Northern Europe, as well as the Condé Nast Gold List won this year and last year, really stand out as special moments for the team,’ Jarle Moen says, ahead of taking a seat on HSMAI Region Europe’s Culture and People Advisory Board, as well as joining the ranks of HSMAI mentors in HSMAI Region Europe’s Mike Leven Mentor Program.
The HSMAI Culture & People Advisory Board, on which Jarle Moen is about to take a seat, consists of a select few general managers and professionals with leading European experts on marketing, management, learning and talent development.
A top-notch hotel, eateries, spa and bar
Tjuvholmen (the Thief Islet) used to be a haven for smugglers, thieves and scoundrels. Today it is home to THE THIEF, a modern hideaway – smack in the middle of downtown Oslo. If anything gets stolen there nowadays, it’s usually Jarle Moen’s hotel stealing its guests away from their everyday lives.
THE THIEF is filled with top international art pieces, carefully selected designer furniture, global Nordic cuisine, a top quality spa and cosmopolitan bars. ‘Escapees’ are able to enjoy refreshing dips in the sea at the Tjuvholmen beach or stroll off the islet across the footbridge to the bustling Aker Brygge restaurant and business area. Most of its guests come here to get away from it all, and for the relaxing atmosphere of THE THIEF, according to the hotel’s website, but we think it is safe to say that it’s no exaggeration.
‘Complaints most welcome’
‘In my opinion, we have managed to position THE THIEF as one of Norway’s leading hotels in less than five years because we have followed our business plan, strategy and branding guidelines to the letter, and tried to tick every box as we went along. It has, however, been important to listen to our guests’ feedback and make adjustments to the concept when needed. For example, when we established the roof top bar and restaurant,‘ says Jarle Moen.
‘You need to dare to be bold, to grab those international awards, be on your front feet and work hard. I have an absolutely astounding team of super-qualified colleagues, focused on one common goal: to deliver world-class service. Of course, we experience complaints, I would be lying if I told you differently, but poor feedback is feedback good as any! We use it to improve ourselves,’ he adds.
‘You never hesitated to address yourself as the hotel’s Thief Executive Officer. How is the hotel’s apparently informal interaction with itself and its surroundings received by guests and the public at large?’
‘That is exactly how we wish to be seen and experienced, delivering top class service while yielding profits for our owners, but seriously, I think the time we live in calls for just that. Each and every member of our team genuinely cares for our guests. You have to remember that even international celebrities want to be seen as people, so we treat our guests as rock stars and rock stars as guests. Simple as that, and yes, it does reflect on how we address ourselves,’ Jarle Moen explains.
Up close and personal
‘If you ask me, the qualities distinguishing a successful 21st century hotel manager are two things, primarily, depending on whether we’re talking general manager or hotel manager: curiosity and the ability to love your guests and colleagues. It’s all about being able to make your co-workers excel at what they’re supposed to be good at, to extract the very best from each and every one of them. I practice management by walking around, partly based on previous experiences. I have worked in organizations where the general manager has been hiding behind an office door, but you know, that simply doesn’t cut it anymore.’
‘Also,’ he says, ‘I pride myself on only hiring people who are better than me in their respective fields, which is also why we have the best team. I’m rather good at that, if I may say so myself. I think, perhaps, that’s where I really stand to contribute internationally, because that kind of thinking really isn’t that common.’
‘Another trait signifying a successful general manager is his or her willingness to actually meet the guests. There’s nothing quite as nice as being greeted by the general manager or hotel manager in person, which is something I try to do as often as time allows,’ says Jarle Moen.
‘You have had ample opportunity to get to know HSMAI’s Mike Leven Mentor Program. In what way do you think such a program can contribute to the professional growth of travel and hospitality executives?’
‘Being a top executive in the travel and hospitality industry means that you’re under constant scrutiny, day after day. You’re weighed, judged and measured on TripAdvisor and in the social media, so you cannot allow yourself to ever leave the stage, as it were. I live my work 24/7. I have guests just next to my office wall, so there is indeed a certain amount of pressure. That’s where HSMAI’s Mike Leven Mentor Program and the Culture and People Advisory Board serves, not only as a place to vent our concerns, but also as a place to be inspired. You see, I expect to be inspired every bit as much by my future mentee as he or she by me. Top executives need mentors, too, and considering what I just said about only hiring people who are better than me in certain respects …’
Need for a common ground
‘The mentor program is all about putting service and management on the agenda. Mike Leven speaks of simple, basic things, such as seeing people, and has done so with huge success, because he has allowed himself the time to do so. He is a man who has lived a long life in the industry, accumulating experiences and an impressive knowledge. It’s not like I think this is going to revolutionize us in any way, but we could really need to pause and think every now and then. Being a leader is demanding. Being able to make your colleagues good is demanding. That’s where I think the program has a mission,’ Jarle Moen elaborates, adding:
‘Everything in our line of work is about bearing the brunt together. It is highly important to be committed and to be part of something. Each and every one of us needs to pull his or her weight. What HSMAI’s Ingunn Hofseth does is to ensure that the industry sticks together, creating a common ground, which I find most admirable. We need that.’
‘Have we seen any similar initiatives in recent years?’
‘I think we can safely assume that most hotels or hotel chains of a certain stature have their own mentoring or trainee programs, but what I find intriguing with the Mike Leven Mentor Program is that you get a chance to work with the best people in the world, like Mike Leven himself. That is fantastic, no less!’
Team builder par excellence
Of course we had to ask Jarle Moen to mention some of his strengths, which arguably is a different question to answer, as we all know, but we couldn’t resist:
‘I’m probably not the one to ask, but I think the ability to attract the best people the industry has to offer ranks up there, and if you take a closer look at what we’ve achieved, I think it is safe to say that we’ve succeeded. Oh, and being named HSMAI’s Hotelier of the Year, accompanied by the jury’s praise, was a humbling, but very rewarding experience. Finally, perhaps I should mention my talent for building teams,’ he says.
Not a 9 to 5 job
Jarle Moen is a 100 percent dedicated general manager, not very likely to leave his work at the office.
‘You have to be ‘on the ball’ at all times, so I find it hard to put the cell phone down and I read my last emails around midnight. The line between work and personal life inevitably gets blurred, but I’m good at taking a timeout every now and then. I love going down to my cottage in Drøbak, not far from Oslo, doing absolutely nothing’.
A super arena
Of course Jarle Moen has an expectation or two to his future life as a mentor:
‘I would be delighted to work with someone who is highly committed and also from the international scene, I think. A lot of THE THIEF’s guests live in New York, for some reason or the other. Maybe someone from the Big Apple could be interesting? It is a destination that is very convenient for me since I visit the city quite often, but from what I hear there’s already candidates waiting in London and Barcelona, so maybe one of those? I picture maybe a rookie hotel manager or general manager, eager to rise in the ranks.’
‘Anything else, before we wrap this up?’
‘Since you ask, I’d just like to say that I hope this program will result in a mutual arena for professionals who are keen to be part of the international travel and hospitality elite, mutually contributing to each other’s professional growth – a super arena, if you will. That’s what I’d like.’
‘We are very proud to welcome Jarle Moen as mentor and advisory board member,’ says HSMAI Region Europe President and CEO Ingunn Hofseth, adding ‘His huge successes in facilitating a creative and energetic working environment is an inspiration to us all, and we hope to tap into his mind. Also we are delighted by the prospect of seeing aspiring mentees profiting from his vast knowledge.’
‘HSMAI strongly believes in Mike Leven’s leadership philosophy and is therefore introducing this program in his name for the mentors and mentees who share these values and the same passion to implement that philosophy,’ she says.
Details on the Culture and People Advisory Board can be found here.