Focus is a huge enabler of effective collaboration. Your individual ability to unplug from everything else, and fully invest in the purpose and process of collaboration makes all the difference between success and failure.

I often find that metaphors and stories are extremely effective ways of communicating both the importance of enabling factors and tactics and tools to execute.

The below video clip is from a very under rated movie “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” It’s the story of Francis Ouimet, a Caddy at a Brookline golf course, who enters, and wins the 1913 US Open against some of Britain’s best golfers, including Harry Vardon and Ted Ray.

Golf, at its core, is a simple game – put a small ball into a small hole in as few swings as possible. The challenge of golf is in the barriers that the game presents – both physically and mentally.

Physical barriers include the rough, the trees, sand traps, hills, water (always the water for me), and the spectators. Mental barriers include the last shot a golfer hit, worries at home or at work, pressure of the competition, self doubt, essentially anything your mind can conjure up to draw your attention away from the task of putting the ball into the hole.

One of the reasons this film is so interesting and effective to me, is how filmmaker Bill Paxton provides glimpses into the minds of these golfers as they focus before a shot. This clip is one of my favorites, and shows Harry Vardon’s concentration leading up to a tee shot.

You see Vardon wipe away all of the distractions, one by one, until he is left alone on a field of green and brown, just him, the ball, his club, and the hole. He didn’t just eliminate the distractions; he actually transported himself back to England, back to his home course where he was most comfortable. He didn’t just eliminate the visual images; he even pushed the sounds of the crowd away.

The last part of the scene is the image of the four black-topped men that creep onto the edges of his club. Those represent Vardon’s unique mental barriers – the moneymen who control his fate back in Britain.

It isn’t until he is able to push all those barriers aside that he allows himself to drive the ball, on line, directly toward the hole.

So the next time you are sitting down to work with a team, take a minute and inventory your physical and mental distractions, then one by one push them out of your mind so that you can be fully focused on the event at hand.