If you aspire to set up shop as a successful life coach there seems to be two requirements. First, have your life changed by someone profoundly, and second, change someone else’s life profoundly. Then insert atop your résumé that you’re hosting a monthly interview series at the Bedford Playhouse, called “A Day in the Life/LifeChangers,” and you’re good to go.
Katonah resident Nancy Steiner, a Peabody Award-winning veteran producer whose long TV career played out on NBC, CBS and PBS, not only had her life altered but saved by Katie Couric. In 2000, Jeffrey Zucker, then head of “The Today Show,” asked her to produce a segment where Ms. Couric is filmed getting a a colonoscopy. “Remember that Katie’s husband had died from colon cancer two years earlier,” recalled Ms. Steiner “She knew there wasn’t nearly enough awareness of the disease.” The top-rated morning show got so much attention that doctors began talking about the “Couric effect” to describe how it precipitated the nationwide rush to get screenings.
For Ms. Steiner, the aha moment only came three years ago, when she almost died of her own ruptured colon and acute diverticulosis, a critical injury further insulted by an abscess. “Thanks to Katie, it was the only part of my body I knew everything about,” Ms. Steiner said with a laugh. “I was able to remain calm and patient and get the care I needed.” After 12 weeks recovering at home, Ms. Steiner revived and realized she wanted to impact people in a truly transformative way.
“Producing TV and films was fabulous, fun and thrilling, but I never knew if I was getting through to an audience. I wanted to fix that,” she said in a recent phone interview.
Her “A Day in the Life/LifeChangers” series kicks off next Wednesday, Oct. 13, with former U.S. ambassador and diplomat Richard Haass, who has been president of the Council on Foreign Relations since 2003.
“Richard literally has his thumb on the pulse of the world,” said Ms. Steiner, who has produced several short programs for the Council. “Next Wednesday we’ll discuss his incredibly prophetic book, “A World in Disarray,” about American foreign policy.” She said the program intends to raise such questions as, “What does each of us need to know about the world right now? How do we thrive in the New World Order?”
What she has in mind for her Playhouse series is not your everyday talk show topics. “I’m not booking guests who are interesting,” Ms. Steiner stressed, “When I was in TV, if a guest was merely interesting, audiences would change the channel and watch something else. I want to present people who are fascinating and have the ability to make people think about the direction of their lives.”
Also fitting that bill is the series’ second guest, Susanna Styron, whose documentary about migraines, “Out of My Head,” enjoyed great acclaim and offered relief to at least some of the 36 million Americans who suffer from the debilitating condition. Future speakers include a high-intensity strength trainer whose specialty is workout programs for people in their 50s to late 70s. “Each of my guests will have something completely different to offer the audience,” confirmed Ms. Steiner.
Although she spent her early career years in New York City, Ms. Steiner grew up in Scarsdale. Moving to Katonah made sense; it was easy for her to hop the train to the city and yet it had the outdoorsy, small-town feel she wanted for her children. “We lived in one of those Victorians in town which, of course, was a destination on Halloween night. We’ve loved every minute,” said Ms. Steiner, noting she is thrilled by the hamlet’s diverse mix of residents, tilted increasingly towards artists, writers and environmentalist advocates. “I’ve been here 30 years and this town gets better all the time,” she said. She is married to David Michaelis, a writer, and the couple have a blended family of five children.
Mimi Taft, a public art consultant, volunteered with Ms. Steiner at the Katonah Museum of Art in the 1990s, getting books donated to the museum’s then-new Learning Center. She believes the transition to life coach is the ideal move for her longtime friend. “Nancy is brilliant at drawing people out and asking questions in a way that helps them to talk about their experiences, including the tough ones,” Ms. Taft said. “She’s also an absolute ‘vault’ — you can trust her completely, and I think people perceive that early on.”
It is with people’s life stories that Ms. Steiner begins her life coach sessions at Steiner Coaching Solutions. The mission statement promises one will achieve “Higher levels of potential, confidence and creativity.” She completed a 14-month training regimen to become a master-certified executive life coach, “but I knew I could tap into my interviewing experience,” she added. “It’s crucial to help clients really see and understand their own narratives in order to envision what the next chapter could be.”
Of the hundreds of inspiring reinvention stories Ms. Steiner worked on for “The Today Show,” one that stands out is that of Unita Blackwell, an American civil rights activist who became the first African American woman to be elected mayor in the state of Mississippi. “She’d been raped, beaten by the clan, but went on to be reelected four times and had a major impact on the poorest districts, bringing water and electricity for the first time. She taught me that no matter what adversity you’ve faced you have the power to triumph over them.”
Ms. Steiner was so moved by Ms. Blackwell’s life story that she worked to get the activist nominated for the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Ms. Blackwell was named a finalist for the award. “The Profile publicity led to Unita getting a MacArthur Fellowship and then Harvard giving her a fellowship at their Kennedy School. It was an unbelievable chain of events, considering her beginnings.” The two stayed in touch until Ms. Blackwell died two years ago.
“I consider myself successful if I can help just a little in moving another life forward,” Ms. Steiner said.
Recently Ms. Steiner was hired to coach a class of about 80 young entrepreneurs at Harvard Business School, including the professor.
“What I love about being a life coach is that I’m meeting people who are seeking change, but the priority isn’t getting rich quick,” she said. “They’re really not about themselves, they’re about the world.”
More information about Ms. Steiner’s coaching services is available at https://steinercoachingsolutions.com.
For tickets and more information about the “Life/Changers” series, visit bedfordplayhouse.org. Bedford Playhouse is located at 633 Old Post Road, Bedford.