NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Gary Crittenden, the former CFO of Citigroup ( C), is a person I greatly respect. One day, I was griping to him about indifferent colleagues. He said, "You make a good case. But I've learned to never make a judgment until I hear both sides." As leaders, we must make judgments every day. But how good are we at making judgments, and how can we improve? The primary lever for making good judgments is simple: information. We must know what the person did and why he did it. David likes to golf. That's the "what." But why does David like to golf? Maybe it's because outperforming others strokes his ego. Or, maybe he uses golf as a tool to build relationships. We cannot make a good judgment about David until we understand what he did and why he did it. It is a natural human tendency to attribute behavior to the person and ignore the context. We focus on the "what" and ignore the "why." Psychologists call this the fundamental attribution error. Here's an example. A car speeds past your house. You judge the driver to be reckless, but in fact, she was carrying an injured neighbor to the hospital. You missed the "why" and made an inaccurate judgment. In my life I've learned that the great majority of people are logical. The source of our conflicts is typically below the surface: deep down in the "why." For example, the human resources department at McDonald's ( MCD) is world-class today. But when I joined in 1995 as director of organization effectiveness, I assumed my role would be to make 1 million employees more productive. All of my decisions were based on that assumption. But the operating assumption of that HR department in the 1990s was to minimize lawsuits. Because my assumption was different from the department, my colleagues viewed me as irrational. I felt the same way about them. In reality, we all made appropriate decisions, but they were based on very different assumptions. To make good judgments, we must understand the "what" and the "why."