Most of us are focused on learning and improving as leaders.  Whether we've been at it for a year or 20, it is good to get some validation along the way.  While that typically comes in the form of revenue or profit growth, we often look to other measures, like making certain rankings, or pride-generating awards.

But there's one list you don't want to wind up on: 24/7 Wall Street's America's Worst Companies to Work for. While most of us are not publicly-traded like those on the list (and may never aspire to be), I think there are some valuable lessons we can learn from their inclusion, besides the impact of bad publicity.

These bad companies to work for have several things in common. According to 24/7′s research, which centered on an examination of employee reviews on the job site, these companies generally rank poorly in customer satisfaction surveys, they don't offer training or development, and their employees complain about low pay as well as a lack of a promotional track or raises. In some cases, customers even complain about employee mistreatment.

The simple reminder here is that happy employees create happy customers and that is reflected in the perception of your business internally and externally.

Here's my five simple "Ps" to generate employee happiness and stay off of any worst-companies-to-work-for lists:

1. Purpose

Employees must have a sense of purpose that is bigger than the job they're doing.  If they're just clocking in and out for the paycheck, you're losing a huge opportunity.  Create a set of core values they can trust and believe in.

2. Pay

You've got to pay your people competitive rates.  You don't have to be the highest in the market, but paying below market or having substandard benefits shows that you care more about your bottom line than your employees.

3. Prepare

Most every one of your employees wants to grow and develop.  You have to find a way to train and give them a path toward advancement.

4. Promote

Titles are cheap.  And, in many cases, new titles, roles, and responsibilities can have greater impact than a bump in salary.  They make your employees feel good about themselves and their place in the organization.

5. Phun

Have a good time!  Find ways to connect family and the workplace--it works wonders--and you'll have a simple, cheap way to strengthen an internal community.

No one wants to make a Worst Places to Work list.  It is much more enjoyable (and profitable) to make a Best Places To Work list--and have people knocking down your doors to come work for you.